Locals took the law into their own hands yesterday morning, blocking the main road into Zithobeni, while the police had to use rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd. No-one was injured.
Residents are demanding lower electricity rates and to meet with Tshwane executive mayor Kgosientso Ramakgopa. Last week angry residents burnt down a satellite police station and the area’s municipal offices.
Johannes Jafter, spokesperson for the police, said 31 people were arrested for public violence yesterday. Dozens of children also took part in the protest – some in school uniform.
Police blocked more than 800 protesters from entering Bronkhorstpruit. “They think we’re stupid. We want to march to town. He (the mayor) does not want to come here. We will fight until the politicians come here,” local resident GT Sambo said.
Police on the scene showed their frustration by shouting at some of those arrested. “You don’t want better lives. You are burning your children’s education. You are burning their books,” one policeman said.
Residents have been struggling to buy prepaid electricity. According to the City of Tshwane, the Kungwini municipality, part of Tshwane since 2011, has been using a different prepaid electricity system, which failed last Monday.
“The city has, since the system crashed, called in technicians for repairs, but have been advised that the system was irreparable,” Blessing Manale, spokesperson for the city said. Residents have until March 20 to re-register on a new payment system.
“We appeal to residents to exercise restraint and desist with acts of criminality. They must fast-track their registration into the new prepaid services to ensure their reconnection,” he said.
However, residents also complained about the escalating price of electricity. One disgruntled resident, Brenda Ndlovu, said she had received enormous electricity bills since 2011.
“We are two people staying in my RDP house. We worked the whole of December, but got charged R942 for water and electricity.
“They don’t even check the meters,” she said.
None of the protesters The Citizen spoke to were aware of the new registration process set in motion by the city.