North West

Mahikeng on the brink as Ramaphosa visits

By Greg Nicolson & Orateng Lepodise 20 April 2018

Police can be seen trying to keep a group of protesters back as they attempted to continue looting a local hardware store in the township of Seweding near Mahikeng, Friday 20 April, 2018. Picture: Daily Maverick

President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to be locked in a meeting with leaders of the North West ANC and alliance on Friday afternoon after protesters had rocked the province's capital, with calls for Premier Supra Mahumapelo to resign. Mahikeng residents cautiously awaited the outcome. 

Mahikeng residents waited eagerly on Friday afternoon in anticipation of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s public address on the protests that have shut down the North West capital since Wednesday.

Firefighter can be seen putting out a fire at the Mmabana Arts and Cultural centre which was set alight and looted as violence continued in the capital of the North West province. Picture: Daily Maverick

 

The President just arrived at the time of writing and was due to be swept into a meeting at Heritage House with structures from the ANC and alliance partners in the province to discuss the violent protests and demonstrators’ calls for Premier Supra Mahumapelo to resign or be recalled. Mahumapelo is implicated in a string of corruption allegations and service delivery failures in North West.

Addressing the media before the meeting started on Friday afternoon, ANC NEC member Obed Bapela said the party had heard protesters’ complaints. He pleaded with them to be peaceful. Bapela admitted corruption was rife in the North West government but said it is broader than one individual. Bapela, who the ANC NEC has deployed to the province, said the party will investigate allegations of corruption and act against those found to be implicated.

Police can be seen trying to keep a group of protesters back as they attempted to continue looting a local hardware store in the township of Seweding near Mahikeng. Picture: Daily Maverick Picture: Daily Maverick

 

 

 

Ramaphosa cut short his visit to a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in London to return home and address the crisis in Mahikeng. The ANC said he would be accompanied by ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte and the party’s NEC members deployed to the province to meet with structures divided over Magashule’s leadership.

The protests calmed somewhat ahead of the meeting but over two days Mahikeng has seen police clash with protesters as stores have been looted and vehicles torched, bringing the city to a standstill. The Mmabana Arts centre was set on fire on Thursday. Police on Thursday said a total of 16 people had been arrested.

Residents called on the President to take strong action against Mahumapelo.

I wish the President would tell us that Supra is leaving. If he is not leaving there will be hell to pay. This man has taken a lot from us and it seems like he still wants to take more but enough is enough,” said Kealeboga Moloi, a Mahikeng resident from Lomanyaneng Village.

Community members claimed that this man is mentally challenged. He was shot in the head by police on Wednesday in the township of Seweding near Mahikeng and has remained untreated. A community member was wheeling him around on a wheelbarrow hoping to find transport to a local hospital. Picture: Daily Maverick

Unit 9 resident Omphemetse Seane said: “Your time is up Supra. We have given you a long lifeline and you decided not to use it. You are taking our city back in history. The last time our city faced something of this sort was back in 1994.”

The situation in Mahikeng has been tense and it has even been difficult for anyone to enter Danville with young men demanding to be paid to allow people to enter. Although the South African Police Services has managed to stop some places like Mega City from being looted, some residents accused SAPS of dragging their feet while others said Public Order Police were being heavy handed with protesters.

I hope the President coming to Mahikeng is not a waste of time. He cannot miss the Commonwealth’s meeting to come and not give us what we want. It is simple, we want Supra to leave and we want better service delivery,” said Mokgabo Mosiapoa from Unit 6.

Mahumapelo has been linked to corruption allegations involving the Gupta family. Residents were outraged after it was reported that his son received a bursary worth over R1-million from state-owned arms company Denel without following the correct procedures.

The DA (Democratic Alliance) said on Friday that a relative of the premier had allegedly received a R32-million contract to run a call centre that only handled an average of 32 calls a month.

The only action Ramaphosa should take today is to recall the premier. Anything less would amount to ignoring the people of the North West who have suffered under this ANC administration,” said DA North West leader Joe McGluwa.

Police fire rubber bullets and tear gas as they are seen trying to keep a group of protesters back as they attempted to continue looting a local hardware store in the township of Seweding near Mahikeng. Picture: Daily Maverick

Mahumapelo and his supporters have said there is a political witch-hunt to purge those who supported ANC presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma rather than Ramaphosa at the party’s December conference.

Police Minister Bheki Cele visited Mahikeng on Friday and listened to complaints of police brutality. He promised to return in two weeks. “As the police, we cannot allow our members to ill-treat the communities they serve. Working with the SAPS leadership we will sit and resolve issues to make our working relationship better. I take it upon myself to find a solution,” he said.

It was reported that one protester died on Thursday evening in a car chase with police. SAPS has denied the death related to the protests.

A protesting resident of Mahikeng holds up his hands to avoid being shot at by police as violence continued in the capital of the North West province. Picture: Daily Maverick

 

The protests have had a severe impact on services in Mahikeng, particularly crippling health services. Health care workers in the province have been on a go-slow and downed tools during the protest, leaving patients struggling to get medical care and medication.

Although there were still some areas on Friday in Mahikeng, like Magogoe, where police and protesters staged running battles, most residents waited to hear whether Ramaphosa would take a stand against the embattled Mahumapelo. DM

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