Local black residents at Barberton, Mpumalanga mounted several days of protests from June 5 2012 against the government's decision not to build a promised university in their town. They also have complaints about poor municipals services.
"Barberton still burning Palistani-owned shops torched: The Lowvelder reports: "Looters, many in school uniform, were arrested by police.5 June 2012 Ricjard Nkosi and Anchen Coetzee
BARBERTON - The CBD of Barberton became a war zone on Tuesday as riot police and protesters clashed.
The protesters, from Emjindini Township, Emjindini Trust and Sincobile Village, were venting their anger at the lack of service delivery. All shops and businesses in Barberton closed yesterday morning as the protesters became violent. Reports of broken shop windows and arson were received late yesterday morning.
Looters, many in school uniform, were arrested by police while running down the streets with trolleys laden with television sets and other goods.
Shops belonging to Pakistani nationals were targeted but businesses owned by other foreign nationals, seemed to have been left undamaged.
Fearing for their lives, shopkeepers barricaded themselves as hundreds of people marched from Emjindini to Barberton.
Protests started on Friday and the situation has been volatile ever since. Yesterday police used force and rubber bullets to drive the protesters back to Emjindini, where it was promised that their grievances would be addressed at the local stadium.
After this the streets in the CBD were deserted. Fires still burned on street corners and stones, bricks and rubble were strewn everywhere. Large boulders blockaded roads.
Cllr Philip Minnaar of the DA said, "The mayor gave us the assurance on Monday that the situation would be resolved and that no further problems should be expected. It is clear that the leaders of Barberton are not at all competent or capable of addressing the community’s problems."
At the time of going to press the situation was still tense as the crowd waited at Emjindini Stadium to be addressed. Many threatened to return to the streets.
• On Monday evening the SMME centre in Emjindini, at which the regional and local ANC leadership used to hold their meetings following Friday’s protest, was burnt down. It belonged to the municipality and was erected in 2004. It is still unknown who torched it.
The centre was used to empower local residents with various skills so that everyone would be able to contribute to the mainstream economy of the town. Government, however, phased out its local economic development fund in 2005, resulting in its future being uncertain.
The municipality had since leased it to local non-profit organisations (NPOs). The availability of an adequate youth centre to provide working skills for locals, was among the listed demands of the protesters in the memorandum they submitted to Umjindi Municipality on Friday.
According to two NPOs - Mphilende Training Solutions and Buhle Buyeta Youth Development - which were leasing the building, the damage to their equipment caused by the arson was estimated to be over R1 million.
Mpilende uses the building to provide learnership programmes on building and civil engineering. Fifteen students are currently enrolled in the 12-month course that started last Monday.
Buhle Buyeta is a youth organisation funded by the department of social development. It provides basic computer skills, career guidance, life skills and assists local residents to access vacancies available in the government and private sectors.
Local pupils also utilised the centre to access the Internet for schoolwork as it was provided free of charge.
Julius Zulu, Mphilende’s managing director, said the material that was lost was valued at an estimated R900 000. “We don’t have insurance to cover our loss.
Assistance from anyone who can provide us with a venue to continue offering studies, would be greatly appreciated,” Zulu pleaded.
Sibusiso “Ace” Ndimande, Buhle’s chairman, said they lost all the documentation that they were supposed to submit to the social development department for funds to enhance the centre.
The initial amount received was R450 000, which was invested in all the equipment that had been destroyed.
There are conflicting reports with white Pakistani or black foreign traders were looted and torched and that the local South African black residents were specifically targetting foreigners, and that these riots would continue for several more days.
Pictures taken by a black resident show that shops in the main downtown area of Barberton also were torched. (ATTACHED WITH REPORT)