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News - Date: 17 May 2018
Written by: Kaizer Nengovhela / Viewed: 2543
The violent protest by Madombidzha residents during the past week turned into criminal activities when some protestors stopped motorists to demand ‘toll’ payment to pass along the closed road.
At least 25 protestors were injured in clashes with the police during the protest action that saw the biggest part of Sinthumule being closed off last Friday morning. Community members are upset about the escalation in crime in the area and have embarked on a total shutdown of the area to get the government to listen to their grievances.
Protestors from Madombidzha and surrounding villages in the Sinthumule district started barricading roads leading out of the area early on Friday morning. The protestors were blocking off roads by using stones and all sorts of rubble. Some of these obstacles were set alight to prevent motorists from using the road.
Thousands of commuters were left stranded and many workers did not report for work. Shops in the area were closed for most of the morning, and the roads around Sinthumule, Makhado Air Force Base and Kutama were blocked. Angry members of the community even broke down a bus shelter and placed it in the road.
Earlier in the morning, the police had to use teargas and rubber bullets to disperse crowding residents. Several protestors were injured during some of these clashes. Some had to be taken to the Louis Trichardt Memorial Hospital for treatment.
The unrest follows the ongoing problem of housebreaking and theft in the Sinthumule and Kutama area. The residents seemingly decided to take the law into their own hands. The rampage prevented some pupils from going to school, because no transport was available. Some of them were forced to walk many kilometres to and from school. Many schools in the area opted rather to close and send the children back home.
Residents appealed to the SAPS to maintain a policy of zero tolerance towards all crime. They said a lot of crimes had occurred in the area and in most cases the suspects were known by the community. Residents appealed to the police to work out a plan with time frames and to stipulate how the community could become involved in pro-active crime prevention.
Until the issue has been resolved, people from outside areas are being warned to avoid the roads leading to Sinthumule and Kutama. Police spokesperson Lt-Col Moatshe Ngoepe said the area was calm at the time of our going to press, but that one car belonging to the police and many belonging to members of the community had been damaged during the protest. "While we were busy controlling the crowds, unruly mobs turned to criminal activities, damaging and looting from cars. We opened cases of public violence," said Ngoepe.
He added that they had opened cases of malicious damage to property as well and could not rule out the possibility of more cases being opened. "Our investigations are continuing,” said Ngoepe.
A community leader, Mr Patrick Sikhutshi, condemned the barbaric behaviour by some of the community members who damaged vehicles and looted during the protest. He said that as leaders they could not allow the criminals to flourish when they were fighting crime. He confirmed that 25 community members had been hit by rubber bullets.
Sikhutshi said that they were going to open a case against the police officials who had instructed other police officers to shoot at the residents. They will also invite the Minister of Police to visit the area.
Sikhutshi further said that they had arrested six suspects who had allegedly been in possession of stolen goods and handed them to the police. He added that they were going to meet with representatives from Sinthumule/Kutama, Louis Trichardt and Tshikota to plan a joint protest.
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A photograph taken during the protests last Friday.
Kaizer Nengovhela started writing stories for Limpopo Mirror more than a decade ago, in 2 000. Prior to that he had a five year stint at Phala-Phala FM as sports presenter. In 2005 Kaizer received an award from the province's premier as Best Sports Presenter. The same year he was also nominated as Best Sports Reporter by the Makhado Municipality. Kaizer was awarded the Mathatha Tsedu award in 2014.