Young Wanga Nemaungani is rescued by police officers from her home after it was set alight by angry Chiawelo residents protesting against prepaid meters and ongoing power outages. Picture: Itumeleng English
Young Wanga Nemaungani is rescued by police officers from her home after it was set alight by angry Chiawelo residents protesting against prepaid meters and ongoing power outages. Picture: Itumeleng English

Angry mob torch councillor’s house

By Poloko Tau and Staff Reporter Time of article published Jul 6, 2011

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Journalists helped police and residents to rescue six people trapped in a burning Chiawelo councillor’s house on Tuesday.

Ward 12 councillor Johannes Nemaungani’s house was torched during protests against Eskom’s prepaid electricity meters.

Nemaungani’s daughter Jennifer and five grandchildren, aged between five and 16, had locked themselves in the main house, scared that they could run into the angry mob of protesters, as the flames roared.

The fire was spreading through the ceiling from the garage, where the councillor’s Toyota Corolla had been set on fire. Those locked in the house could smell the smoke as the flames raged through the ceiling, down to their father’s car inside the garage, until the roof collapsed onto it.

Police knocked on the door of the burning house and evacuated Jennifer and the children as well as two dogs before the ceiling collapsed.

“I feared for our safety and called the police. I asked them to be nearby just in case something happens. Later, the crowd were in front of our house,” said a traumatised Jennifer shortly after she was rescued from the house.

Nemaungani’s car was torched while police were removing rocks and burning tyres used to barricade the busy Chris Hani Road nearby.

Firemen arrived and took over from residents, who were using buckets and a hosepipe to try to extinguish the blaze.

Traffic had been disrupted after residents blocked Chris Hani Road, prompting police to fire rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

The police were pelted with rocks as running battles took place between them and the mob. At one point, a group of protesters fought with metro police officers to free a man who had just been arrested.

Overpowered and under siege, the two officers fled the scene.

Residents told The Star that councillors had been targeted because they supported the installation of the meters.

The violence started after Eskom employees arrived in Chiawelo at about 9am under police escort to fix electricity boxes that had been forced open.

Residents said they were against the “split electricity metering system” installed there five years ago as a pilot project for Soweto.

Illegal connections have become rife as residents complain that they cannot afford Eskom’s “fast-running metering system”.

“Residents can’t be blamed for taking to the streets when they have been forced to use paraffin and coal because they cannot afford Eskom’s prepaid electricity. At the moment R50 worth of electricity does not last more than two days,” said resident Isaac Makaraba.

Police spokesman Mpande Khoza said they were monitoring the situation.

Eskom spokeswoman Lesego Motshwane said last night that managers were still in a meeting discussing the situation in Chiawelo. She said she would issue a statement afterwards. - The Star

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