Co-operative Governance Minister Richard Baloyi. File photo: Masi Losi

Johannesburg - The ANC has welcomed Co-operative Governance Minister Richard Baloyi's decision to halt the merger of Sasolburg with the Ngwathe local municipality.

“It is regrettable that a well-intentioned initiative, calculated to improve performance of local government, has collapsed on the grounds of allegations of poor or non-consultation with the affected communities,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The ANC NEC 1/8national executive committee 3/8 members will work with the structures of the ANC on the ground to ensure that calm is restored.”

Residents started protesting on Sunday in opposition to the proposed merger, in 2016, of the Matsimaholo municipality in Sasolburg with the Ngwathe municipality, under which Parys falls.

Two people were killed and nine were injured on Tuesday. A total of 259 people have been arrested since the start of the protest.

The African National Congress sent its condolences to the families of those who were killed.

“We call on the people of all townships involved in the protest to give consultation a chance and reject violence,” Mthembu said.

The Police and Prisons Civil Right Union (Popcru) called for an end to violent attacks on police in Zamdela and Deneysville.

“These acts committed, allegedly by community members, have the potential of damaging relations between the police as service providers and the very community they are expected to serve,” Popcru said in a statement.

“While we respect the community's right to register their complaints through protest, we condemn the criminality that has overtaken the action.”

The Democratic Alliance said the police need to explain why live ammunition was used during the protest on Tuesday.

“While the situation was volatile and violent in Sasolburg, the use of live ammunition to deal with protests is unacceptable. Marikana is a testament to this,” said DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane.

“The DA demands answers from Free State police commissioner Khela Sithole on the firing of live ammunition yesterday.”

A man was shot dead on Tuesday, allegedly by police, when protesters tried to attack the local police station. He died on his way to hospital.

Free State police said earlier: “In an attempt to protect the property and the lives of police members, shots were fired at an angry mob that was attacking the police station.”

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate would investigate the shooting.

The second man was shot and killed, allegedly by a business owner, when protesters tried to break into his shop.

The Inkatha Freedom Party said the government was behaving like the apartheid regime.

“It is very unfortunate that the ANC government has mastered the behaviour patterns of the apartheid government, in that they only react to people's grievances when there is pressure emanating from violence and chaos,” IFP deputy national spokesman Joshua Mazibuko said in a statement.

“A responsible government would not have waited until there was loss of life and people's hard-earned properties before taking a decision.”

He said the government had failed to “read the mood” of the residents and should not have decided to merge the municipalities. - Sapa