Pretoria - People were attacked, shops looted and two businesses petrol-bombed as the second day of protests by informal traders turned violent in the streets of the Pretoria CBD on Wednesday.
Informal traders who had not joined the march – organised by the Tshwane Barekisi Forum – were chased away and others hit with sjamboks and knobkieries for “standing against the revolution”.
Their stock was taken and trading stalls vandalised. Some tried to fight back.
Barekisi organiser Dan Matlanyane said the leadership had nothing against the attacks, as those who stood against the revolution risked being crushed.
A petrol bomb was hurled at the premises of the Office National Africa in Johannes Ramokhoase Street, causing a fire that was extinguished by staff and police officers. Strong fumes and smoke filled the shop premises. Asked for comment, the shop manager said: “They threw a petrol bomb. I have nothing further to say.”
Stones were thrown at businesses as the informal traders fled from gun-wielding police officers dispersing a vocal crowd that had closed Lillian Ngoyi Street in front of municipal offices at Isivuno House.
Police had charged towards the marchers who had been singing songs insulting the metro police and mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
Barekisi members wanted the mayor to address them about the issues they raised in a petition submitted on Tuesday.
They are demanding that metro police stop harassing them and return stock that was confiscated.
They wanted Ramokgopa and Community Safety MMC Terrence Mashego to resign – a demand described by mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale as being misplaced.
Metro police confiscate stock informal traders sell from unauthorised areas, or without a permit.
The simmering tension boiled over just after 1pm after Barekisi leader Shoes Maloka told members Ramokgopa was not going to address them.
Police were ordering the protesters to disperse or be shot, but “there was no reason to return to work if metro police were going to confiscate stock”, he said.
Onlookers ran for cover as police moved swiftly towards the crowd with guns at the ready.
The informal traders also fled, throwing stones at businesses, most of which had closed their doors in anticipation of the violence.
Matlanyane denied Barekisi was led by people trying to settle political scores before the ANC regional conference where chairman Ramokgopa would seek re-election, as claimed by Manale.
But Matlanyane said if Ramokgopa continued to ignore the vendors, they were prepared to force him to “lend us his ears”.
There was no politics in Barekisi. The city was referring to four organisations it wrongfully recognised as representatives of informal traders, he said. “The four other leaders are the ones with political motives.”
Matlanyane said the organisations were set up as a task team but were not representatives of informal traders in the city.
David Mathekga, an informal trader, said: “We were peaceful and wanted the mayor to address our demands, but the police decided to shoot us the same way they did the miners in Marikana.
“Their actions are worse than those of the apartheid regime. They should take responsibility for the damage that was caused.”
Barekisi deputy secretary Mary Ngema said they were returning to Isivuno House on Thursday. “If Ramokgopa sends the police to shoot us again, he can go ahead. He will bury us and then feel good about himself.”