Protest action turns dangerous in Maluti

PROTEST action spiralled out of control outside the Department of Public Works offices in Maluti on Tuesday as angry residents set fire to municipal vehicles and buildings as they protested a lack of decent roads in the area. During the protest, three government vehicles and an office were burned while doors from other offices were also damaged.

The protestors were calling for excavators and graders that were placed inside Department of Public Works offices in Maluti to go on site to re-gravel all roads which are in bad condition.

Community member Motiki Lepheana said government has previously made promises of improving their roads, but nothing was done.

He said people do not want roads to be tarred because it could take many years to finish, saying: “People pleaded with government to re-gravel all bad roads for motorists to move smoothly,” adding that T69 and KwaMzongwana road are in a bad state. He said the road between Maluti and Matatiele as well as the small roads in Maluti Township were in poor condition.

In the afternoon, two senior officials from Matatiele Local Municipality and Department of Public Works in Alfred Nzo District tried to speak to the angry people but the protestors said they did not want promises, only that the roads be fixed promptly.

Matatiele Local Municipality mayor Momelezi Mbedla appealed to protesters to suspend their action and allow negotiations to take place.

A meeting between police, Department of Safety and Liaison, Matatiele Local Municipality and Department of Public Works was held on Wednesday at Matatiele Local Municipal offices and the protest was called off.

Matatiele Municipality said in a statement that shops and offices in Matatiele town and Maluti were opened with few numbers of employees because of barricaded roads on Wednesday and many pupils from different schools did not go to school.

On July 24, 2017, the Hadernburg road outside Maluti was barricaded with burning tyres, rocks and a dead horse. Last month, people again closed the road between Maluti and Matatiele, protesting the same issue.

Police spokesperson Captain Raphael Motloung said no arrests were made during protest action.