Bushbuckridge – Eight people accused of burning down a construction vehicle and attempting to burn down a councillor’s house during a community protest in Mpumalanga were remanded in custody when they appeared in court on Monday.
The eight were arrested following a two-day community protest in Marite near Hazyview, which started on Wednesday last week.
Angry residents, who barricaded streets with tyres and stones, accused ward councillor Eunice Khoza of manipulating the employment process in a municipal road maintenance project on the R40 Road between Hazyview and Bushbuckridge.
“Three people were arrested on Thursday while the other five were arrested on Saturday. They were not asked plead to charges of public violence and malicious damaged to property when they appeared in the Mapulaneng magistrate’s court,” provincial police spokesperson Gerald Sedibe told African Eye News Service (AENS).
The eight accused were remanded in custody pending their next court appearance on June 29 when they will apply for bail.
Make them listen
Meanwhile, the Bushbuckridge local municipality is investigating the allegations of nepotism against Khoza, who is accused of arranging for her own relatives to get employment on the maintenance project.
“We cannot confirm or deny whether the community’s allegations against the councillor are true, but we can confirm that our regional manager in the area is investigating [the matter] in order for us to get to the bottom of this,” said municipal spokesperson Matome Malatjie.
However, Malatjie said that the councillor had every right to be involved in the employment process as she knows the community members very well.
During the protest on Wednesday, a TLB machine and other property belonging to the construction company were set alight. They protestors also tried to burn down Khoza’s house.
Some of the protesters who spoke to AENS claimed that Khoza arranged jobs for relatives from as far as Mkhuhlu, which is some distance from Marite.
“The councillor has gone as far as Mkhuhlu and other areas in order to employ people to come and work in our area. We will never allow other people to come and work in our area when we have applied for the same jobs,” said Thomas Mdluli, a resident of Marite.
Another resident, Mfundo Lukhele, said the community would make sure that the employees who are linked to Khoza are fired from the project.
“We will make sure that we fight until our grievances are heard, and if they try to ignore us we will find ways of making them listen,” said Lukhele.
When reached for comment, Khoza denied the community’s allegations.
“None of my children or friends works under that construction company, yet they accuse me of manipulating the employment process,” said Khoza.
However, the councillor admitted that there could be nepotism in the project, but denied she was involved in it.
“I am not saying everyone involved in the project did not practice any nepotism, but from my side I did not manipulate the process. Some councillors might have done so because they have relatives working there,” she said.
Khoza added that the protests could be politically motivated.
“Some people failed to secure positions as councillors and the councillors who have been removed are also suspected to be behind the protest, in fact they just want to cause chaos,” said Khoza. – African Eye News Service