Rustenburg – Forty-eight people were arrested during violent protest around the Ditsobotla local municipality, national police said on Wednesday.
Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said North West police managed the situation adequately, and that a national intervention was deemed necessary. He said additional deployments from the Public Order Policing Unit, the Tactical Response Team and Visible Policing were deployed to the areas of Lichtenburg, Coligny, Itsoseng and Blydeville.
"The heightened visibility of police members and targeted operations immediately helped to stabilise the area," he said.
"During these stability operations, 48 people were arrested. This included the arrest of six people for public violence, two for setting the police Nyala alight and 42 for possession of goods allegedly stolen during looting sprees which accompanied the violence." Two men were also arrested in connection with the death of a 12-year-old boy in Coligny.
"The death of the young boy is believed to have sparked the violence in the Coligny area. Both suspects are currently in police custody and will appear in court in due course." Naidoo said the arrest of those involved in criminal activities was indicative that the police would not tolerate any form of violence or lawlessness.
Three houses, three trucks and a tractor were torched in Coligny and several shops were looted. Three trucks were also set alight in Blydeville, Lichtenburg during the violent protest that flared in Blydeville on Friday and spill over to Coligny and Itsoseng. A police armoured vehicle (Nyala) was torched in Blydeville on Monday afternoon.
"Although a degree of calm has been restored in the affected areas, the police continue to monitor the situation. All sectors of the community are cautioned not to take the law into their own hands. The rumours that spread in certain quarters that the police did not have control over the situation are refuted," said Naidoo.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said scenes of violence, looting and community division in Coligny and Lichtenburg, highlighted the need for a far greater SA Police Service response (SAPS) to prevent violent protests before they escalate. "The DA calls for calm in these areas. Violence has never, and will never, solve the serious problems we face," said provincial party leader Joe McGluwa.
"It is the responsibility of the South African Police Service to police violent protests, and to stop threats of violence from materialising, but in this case there has clearly been a failure by the SAPS." He said in Lichtenburg, residents have taken to the streets demanding access to water, electricity, roads and jobs, as the Ditsobotla Municipality continues to deliver the most shockingly poor services.
"Most towns have no water supply, or have permanently irregular water. Sewage leaks and broken infrastructure issues go unrepaired indefinitely," McGluwa said.
"The Ditsobotla Municipal manager permanent post has been vacant for most of the last five-year term, and the chief financial officer (CFO) has been suspended for the past 12 months. It is understandable that these communities have very serious service delivery gripes."
The African National Congress (ANC) in Ngaka Modiri Molema District said it has noted with concern recent community protests in Ditsobotla. "The ANC has a deep understanding of the seriousness and the impact that lack of service delivery and unemployment has in the lives of our people," said regional spokesperson Lebogang Ditire.
"The ANC, however, strongly condemns all criminal acts in the form of violence, destruction of State and private property, and looting of shops in some parts of the Ditsobotla Local Municipality under the guise of 'service delivery protests'. We call on our branches to work with all organs of civil society in ensuring that any service delivery issues are properly raise with either government or the ANC."
He called on residents in Ditsobotla to co-operate with a seven member task team North West premier Supra Mahumapelo appointed to investigate service delivery problems that led to the protests.
"The ANC in Ngaka Modiri Molema call on the appointed team to convene Employment summit in Ditsobotla. We want the community of Ditsobotla to know that the people come first in everything the ANC do, and we want excellence. There is no place for complacency, cynicism, or excuses," he said. He said genuine service delivery concerns were receiving urgent attention.
"We again reiterate that any legitimate concern that our people might have in the country around service delivery should be raised in a non-violent manner. We have always listened to our people and we will always respond in a manner that continues to better the lives of our people."