Police crack down as new protests rock Ficksburg

A month after Andries Tatane was killed during a service delivery march in Ficksburg, police used rubber bullets to disperse about 200 disgruntled residents during renewed protests in the Free State town.

Captain Phumelelo Dlamini said Meqheleng residents began burning tyres, barricading roads and stoning police around 9am.

“We had to fire rubber bullets at the crowd, use stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the unruly crowd,” he said.

A 20-year-old man was arrested. No one was injured.

Residents had apparently gathered for a talk with provincial cooperative governance department head Kopung Ralinkontsane on the results of an investigation into corruption at the Setsoto municipality.

Ralinkontsane announced that three directors and a manager from the municipality were sent on special leave following allegations of corruption.

The directors were from the finance, cooperative services and economic and community services departments. The manager is from the roads and stormwater department at the municipality, which incorporates Ficksburg.

According to Tsiliso Mpekoa from the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group, protesters also want Ficksburg mayor Mbothoma Maduna suspended.

Mpekoa said the protests occurred before and after the talks.

Residents also wanted to march but were denied permission.

“The march then turned into a briefing session, where residents were informed … how far investigations have come,” he said.

“People want the mayor to also be put on special leave, but we have advised them that the time will come. We have a list of 19 people we want dismissed.. and [with] the four that are on special leave already [it] shows progress. They were also encouraged to vote … [in] the up coming local government elections.”

He said residents “calmed down” after police intervened and they were spoken to.

Dlamini said police were on high alert and conducting regular patrols in the area.

During heated protests last month, Tatane — a Cope member — was killed in a confrontation with police during a service delivery protest march in the town.

Tatane, 33, was beaten and shot, allegedly by the police, during the protest.

Eight policemen were arrested and refused bail by the Ficksburg magistrate’s court. They will next appear on June 2. — Sapa

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