Violence continues over electricity hike

ANGRY residents of Ratanda, near Heidelberg, continued to wage running battles with the police yesterday as violent protests in the area over electricity bills entered their third day.

Thick black smoke billowed over the troubled township as irate residents, mostly the young, barricaded the main streets with burning tyres, metal frames, rocks and branches.

Several dozen police officers in full riot gear had their hands full as the protesters, chanting slogans, charged sporadically at the police and hurled petrol bombs, empty bottles and rocks at them.

The police reacted by firing teargas canisters and stun grenades, sending the mob scurrying for cover.

The stand-off, lasting almost the entire day, nearly turned nasty when a mob from the neighbouring extensions 23 and 26 joined in.

During the chaos, the protesters smashed the windows of municipal offices and the windscreen of a police van.

Some of the protesters also threatened to burn down the local schools and the house of the mayor, Lerato Maloka.

“It means we are actually buying these RDP houses. It’s like paying for a full bond,” said Phumzile Mtshali, decrying what residents have called hefty electricity bills enforced by the municipality.

Heidelberg police commander Colonel Balaraman Govindasamy was at the scene to negotiate with community leaders.

“This (has been) a no-go zone for us since Monday but we are trying to get the situation under control,” Govindasamy said.

Residents say they have experienced intermittent power cuts in the past three weeks, sparking the protests.

Meanwhile, in Lenasia, Hospital Hill residents protested by barricading roads with burning tyres and other objects yesterday against a lack of water and electricity – at the same time President Jacob Zuma made a Human Rights Day address in nearby Kliptown, Soweto.

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