South Africa 26.4.2017 06:01 am

Protest anarchy breaks out in Gauteng, North West

A burnt Police Nyala  house at Lichtenburg in North West, 25 April 2017, after violent protest erupted in the area. It is alleged that a farmer caught a young child stealing Sunflower and put him in the back of the van and the boy died by jumping. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

A burnt Police Nyala house at Lichtenburg in North West, 25 April 2017, after violent protest erupted in the area. It is alleged that a farmer caught a young child stealing Sunflower and put him in the back of the van and the boy died by jumping. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Police were forced to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse angry crowds.

Anarchy broke out during protests in the North West and Gauteng on Tuesday, where demonstrations turned violent.

Police were forced to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse angry crowds.

In Coligny, in North West, the protests were sparked by service delivery issues and descended into a race war, while residents of Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, were at odds over the distribution of land.

The protest action over lack of service delivery in the violence-stricken area of Coligny on Tuesday turned into a racial issue between blacks and whites.

Disgruntled protesters went on the rampage, burning to the ground several houses near Lichtenburg.

At least four houses were torched in a space of an hour.

Several shops, including a furniture warehouse, were also broken into before being looted by protesters running amok.

Only a few police officers, most of whom who were stationed in Lichtenburg town, as well as on the main road linking Lichtenburg with Coligny, went inside the area.

Some protesters, who did not want to be named, declared war on all white people, saying they were prepared to kill them.

READ MORE:

WATCH: Houses set alight in Coligny violent protest

Homeowners were seen rushing to their houses, finding smoke billowing from collapsed roof tops. One of the affected owners, Adriaan Groenewald, said he was at work in Lichtenburg when he received a call telling him that parts of his house were burning.

“I could sense that something was going to happen from early in the morning, because protesters walked past my house and started throwing stones, saying that they were going to burn all our houses,” said Groenewald.

“That is when I told my wife that she has to pack some of our things and within an hour after we left, that’s when I received a call about my house being on fire.

“This is no longer a legitimate protest action, but criminality has now taken over and other racial issues, which I don’t want to enter into because in all the many years we have been here, the relationship between white and black people has always been a healthy one.”

Groenewald said he now feared for his life and that of his family, saying the police had been extremely poor in terms of responding to the violent protest.

“Why can’t government just send in the army, because the situation here is likely to get even worse?” Groenewald added.

Other homeowners were seen fleeing the area and by 3pm, no police officers were seen at any of the houses that were attacked.

Most of the protesters in Coligny looked like young schoolchildren.

Some of the protesters warned members of the media not to take pictures of them, threatening to burn their cars, too.

Apart from the houses torched, several vehicles, including trucks, were also set alight.

On Monday, a police Nyala was also burnt amid protests.

According to some of the residents who spoke on condition of anonymity, the protest action was sparked by the death of a young man who was allegedly killed for stealing mielies at one of the farms.

Only a police helicopter was seen hovering over the volatile area.

Tuesday’s violence came at a time when police officers were trying to deal with protests actions that also took place in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, while their other officers were also still keeping a close eye on another violence-hit area, Vuwani in Limpopo.

In Vuwani, residents embarked on a total shutdown of services.

This action, now in its third week, has no end in sight.

Meanwhile, the Lenasia protest saw a tense stand-off between residents and illegal land invaders.

READ MORE:

LISTEN: Lenasia protester says Lenasia land grabs are devaluing properties

Residents vowed to protect an open space next to the area from illegal occupation.

Public Order Police opened fire with rubber bullets and threw stun grenades at protesters, who barricaded the K43 road near Ennerdale with burning tyres

One of the residents injured during the shooting was Shirley Brijlal, a journalist, activist and Lenasia South resident.

According to Brijlal, the group had gathered to discuss and finalise a memorandum that was to be handed the City of Joburg.

“There was nothing we did to aggravate the police and don’t know why they fired at us,” said Brijlal, who was hit by a stun grenade, but did not sustain serious injuries.

“My hair is half-burnt and my ear is also injured,” she said.

Brijlal was one of the Lenasia South residents who protested against illegal land grabbing in the area.

“The people grabbing the land are not even from disadvantaged backgrounds, because they show up, driving their Jeeps and fancy cars, to mark their piece of land,” added Brijlal.

Residents have vowed to protect the open space next to their area.

Community members are adamant that some of the land grabbers are motivated purely by greed.

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