Large armed mob burn tyre-barriers, surround, besiege Ratanda Heidelberg police station: torch library, community hall, 5 houses, municipal offices: MEC tells cops to use force
22 March 2012 RATANDA township in Heidelberg was tense but stable yesterday as community members and police faced off in front of the police station.
A large rolling-mob of residents went on the rampage since Monday. By Thursday, the violence had not yet abated.
The mob used the excuse that they were angered by Lesedi local municipality mayor Lerato Maloka reportedly failing to attend a community meeting at the weekend.
This led to residents vowing to stop council vehicles from entering the township.
During the protest march a library, multipurpose centre, community hall, five houses belonging to ward councillors and municipal offices were burnt down. Several Somali-owned shops were also looted.
Residents told Sowetan that they were unhappy about the way the council was handling electricity billing in the area.
Most of residents use prepaid electricity.A community leader who only identified himself as Kenny said: "If you buy electricity for R200, they give you R150 worth of electricity and say R50 is going to your debt to the municipality. But the money they take never reflects on our bills. The municipality also charges us money for rent but it is not the same for everyone ..."
SINISTER FORCES WANT TO TOPPLE MALOKA AS MAYOR
However, the municipality believes there are sinister forces looking to topple Maloka as mayor.
There were protest in the area just after the ANC-dominated council voted her in as mayor.
"We have received reports that there is an insidious move to oust the current mayor," said local government and housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi's spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa.
In a statement, Mmemezi appealed to police to take strong action against the perpetrators of violence: "... police must ensure that law and order is restored. I am disturbed that despite police presence, more properties were destroyed yesterday (Tuesday).
"It is clear that water cannons do little to break up the crowds.
The public order policing must strengthen their hand and might and make sure that these unruly crowds are brought under control.
"It is disheartening to see people destroying the very same buildings that bring services closer them.
What I have witnessed today (Tuesday) is not the way people should raise their grievances ..."