Johannesburg - At least three buildings went up in smoke as protesting residents clashed with police in Krugersdorp on Monday.
Police struggled to contain an angry mob in a stand-off in Krugersdorp, and two surrounding townships, as protests against alleged drug peddlers, prostitution and human trafficking ran amok.
The rowdy crowd burnt down several houses alleged to be used as drug dens and brothels they claim are run by foreign nationals.
Munsieville township police station was also torched. At least two car workshops were also set alight and the Hollandia Bottle Store and Supermarket broken into and looted.
Rubber bullets flew as protesters stoned motorists and police during the protests that started on Friday. At least five other houses were believed to have been torched between Friday and Sunday.
Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police were yet to calculate how many buildings were burnt.
“The situation remains tense and we are still on the ground,” Dlamini said on Monday night.
Protesters blocked all entrances and exits in the two townships. They blocked roads with rocks, burning tree trunks, bins and tyres during the #KrugersdorpShutdown protest.
Large groups from Kagiso made their way to Krugersdorp, crossing over a railway line, where more violence broke out. In Kagiso township, police vehicles were stoned. A police helicopter hovered over the areas.
A protester threatened to shoot ANA photographer Nokuthula Mbatha for taking pictures.
Community leader Pastor Joe Mabuela said the community was angry that police were not acting on their concerns regarding drug peddling and human trafficking.
“Children are being forced into this vile sex trade,” he said.
In one of the first two houses to be set alight along Sivewright Street in Krugersdorp, the life of a woman believed to be a sex worker was spared. The young woman, who was wearing only a T-shirt and underwear, left the house with her trousers in her hands shortly after the protesters attacked it.
As she put on her trousers she was hit on her head with a stick. Although she was bleeding, she refused to be taken to the hospital.
She told The Star: “I know nothing about prostitutes. This house is a safe haven for young girls who are rescued from operating as prostitutes for Nigerians. Now we have nowhere to sleep because of this,” she said.
But a man who identified himself as Jonathan Rotson said the house belonged to someone else and denied that it was a drugs den or brothel.
People were unable to get to work while children were also barred from going to school. There was no sign of a taxi or bus in the areas.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi expressed concern and shock over disruptions in schools.
“The department calls on community members to refrain from disrupting the education of learners. Parents and communities should note that it is difficult to recover lost curriculum time and children end up being the victims.
“Parents are called upon to take precautionary measures and prioritise safety of their children,” the department said.
Young children who were barred from going to school due to the protest were seen carrying alcohol and food essentials taken from the looted stores.
Protests started on Friday after the community alleged that a young woman who was allegedly kidnapped was found in a house owned by foreign nationals in Krugersdorp.
They said young girls were being given drugs and turned into prostitutes.
The protesters threw stones from several railway bridges. Train services were disrupted and shops were closed for fear of being attacked.
The DA’s constituency head in Mogale City, Alan Fuchs, said the shutdown was a “clear sign that residents have lost faith in the ability of the ANC government and SAPS to keep communities safe”.