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Johannesburg - Gauteng MEC For Community Safety Faith Mazibuko has warned protesting Zithobeni residents who have threatened to torch the Bronkhorstspruit police station that they will be signing their death warrants if they go ahead with their threat.
Mazibuko visited the troubled township outside Bronkhorstspruit on Friday following violent protests which saw the torching of the local municipal building.
Protesters started demonstrations earlier this week over poor service delivery and irregular municipal bills.
They claim they have been prevented from purchasing electricity for their prepaid meters because of excessively high municipal accounts for rates and water.
Mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale on Friday issued a statement condemning the protest action, but his reasons for the protest differed.
According to the municipality, disgruntled residents are protesting over their inability to buy prepaid electricity because of a system failure.
But residents say the council is lying and they know nothing about a system failure.
Zithobeni residents, who have been without water for three weeks, have vowed to continue their violent protest and burn more buildings until executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa comes to address them.
Scores of protesters stormed the satellite police station in the area and set it alight. The police station, the Zithobeni municipal offices, two trucks and a tractor were torched while vehicles were pelted with stones.
An eNCA television vehicle was among those stoned and damaged.
Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds on Friday morning.
Police say they have enough manpower to control the crowds.
Scores of residents who gathered on a koppie overlooking the main road pelted stones at the police, set tyres and rubbish alight and barricaded roads with rocks, preventing police from entering the area.
Mazibuko told the media on Friday that the community’s threatened burning of the police station they had asked for proved they were not appreciative. “All along they ask for a police station and the government does its best to give it to them (then) they (want to) burn it down.”
Mazibuko said their main aim was to restore calm and defuse the situation so that the community could be safe.
“We cannot allow those people who want to continue with their daily lives to be disrupted by those who are doing wrong.
“The long arm of the law will deal with all those who are lawless and going against the law. They will have to wait for the municipal representatives to address this issue,” she said.
Manale said the municipality was discussing sending a representative.
“The erstwhile Kungwini local municipality, now Region 7 following the merger with the greater City of Tshwane in 2011, was using a different prepayment system called Conolog to buy electricity. Region 7 residents continued to be served via the Conolog prepayment system until it crashed on Monday,” Manale said.
He said the use of parallel systems was to give residents ample time to migrate from Conolog to the city-wide Supreme system.
“The city has, since the system crash, called in technicians for repairs, but has been advised that the system is irreparable.”
The municipality has now called on residents to register for the new system, which they say they know nothing about.
“Have they sent someone here to tell us that? They don’t communicate with us. They are all useless. We don’t know anything about that,” a resident said.
A large contingent of police were still monitoring the situation on Saturday night.