Mandla Khoza and Elvis Mashele
ANC politician has blamed unknown political forces for setting his house alight.
His house was one of three torched in Leroro outside Graskop on Sunday after Ward 9 community members complained of bad services.
"This has nothing to do with service delivery, but is politically motivated," ANC chairperson for the Bohlabela region Gillion Mashego told African Eye News Service yesterday.
The other two houses belong to ward councillor Idos Mokoena and an unnamed community member.
Mashego said at the beginning of the month, community members from Ward 8 embarked on a service delivery protest, which turned out to be politically motivated.
"When we called provincial human settlement head of department David Dube to address them they told him that they didn't want to speak to him, but wanted the local councillor to be fired.
"Now the community members of Ward 9 are saying they also want their councillor Mokoena out. They have even gone to the extent of burning down our houses," he said.
Mashego said the protesters also burned two shops and a bakkie belonging to Pakistani nationals in the area.
He said his family was saved from the fire because he had taken them to a place of safety on Sunday afternoon. He said a community meeting was held at the local community hall.
The ANC provincial executive committee sent Dikeledi Mahlangu, who is also public works, roads and transport MEC, to attend the meeting.
"During the meeting, the hall was full and for our safety and that of the MEC, law enforcement agencies decided that we meet outside the hall because there were rumours that we might be held hostage until we agree to their demand to remove the councillor.
"Things started getting out of control when the law enforcement officers told them that we should meet outside.
I suspected that these people might come to our houses later, so I took my family to a place of safety and we all managed to escape," said Mashego.
He said Mokoena and the community member whose house was set alight also escaped unharmed. Mashego said the Bohlabela regional executive committee would meet today to discuss the matter further.
"I have to make it clear that the community's demand is not achievable, because the councillor has done nothing wrong.
If we remove any councillor this will lead to other wards demanding the same, because we would have set a precedent," said Mashego.
Community members who spoke to African Eye News Service on condition of anonymity and fear that they might be implicated in the arson, said community members were unhappy with the allocation of RDP houses in the area.
"Our councillor and all the politicians in this area want you to be a member of the ANC or be a friend of the councillor in order to get an RDP house or a job at the municipal offices," said the community member.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Col Leonard Hlathi said police had not yet made any arrests but were investigating arson, malicious damage to property and public violence.
"No one has been arrested, but we are closely monitoring the situation in Leroro.
We are calling on community members who have information about the suspects who burnt down the houses and shops to come forward," said Hlathi.
Provincial ANC secretary Lucky Ndinisa condemned acts of violence that are committed under the guise of service delivery protests.
"We are against these criminal acts and we are calling on the police to investigate and arrest those involved in the burning of the house.
How can they demand things by burning other people's belongings? This is not what their constitutional right of demonstrating says.
They must be arrested," said Ndinisa. – AENS