The city of Kimberley came to a standstill on Wednesday (12 July) as residents took to the streets – demanding lower electricity tariffs and the resignation of two senior officials in the Sol Plaatje Municipality. The streets were flooded with angered residents as they embarked on a thirteen kilometre walk from the Kemo Hotel to the Sol Plaatje Municipal offices. Armed with a burning Tyre inferno – the community vowed to camp outside of the municipal offices until their demands were met. But when Sol Plaatje Municipality Mayor Mangaliso Matika addressed the thousands of angered Kimberlites – his response was met with violence and contempt.
What was supposed to be a day of peaceful action, turned into two-days of chaos in the city. The community became aggravated when Mayor Matika said that the Sol Plaatje Municipality could not dismiss Chief Financial Officer Lydia Mahloko and Municipal Manager Goolam Akhawary without concrete evidence of misconduct. Residents then attempted to force themselves into the building but police dispersed the crowd with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Residents then retaliated with sporadic protest action wreaking havoc through different parts of the city.
In a video circulating on social media, Wanya Tsotsi’s Tebogo Obusitse said conveners of the #SHUTDOWNKIMBERLEY march and the organization have condemned the looting of local businesses and the mushrooming of violence in the city. “We made announcements in our community meetings and we made this very clear – that we are not going to allow people to loot. But because of criminal elements and criminality while we were busy engaging with the municipality some criminals deemed it fit to destroy some of the properties in town and started to loot in the location. We are urging anyone with videos or pictures to please come forward so we can hand it over to the necessary authorities,” said Obusitse.
Conveners say CFO Lydia Mahloko has issued an interdict against them and it is difficult for them to convene meetings with the community. Both Mahloko and Akhawary have been accused of handling the controversial electricity tariff hike. Police are still monitoring the situation…