Category Archives: Sharpeville

IOL: Sharpeville erupts

Click here to see pictures of the protests.

Sharpeville erupts
February 24 2010 at 07:48AM

By Poloko Tau and Sapa

Abram Mokoena has seen it all before. He was 14 at the time of the Sharpeville massacre, but yesterday, 50 years later, he was caught again between flying bullets and the violence that protest can trigger.

“I don’t know what hit me that day as I was fleeing to the police station.

“Just like today, people were running in all directions and dying like flies,” he said.

Yesterday, several protesting residents were injured by rubber bullets and 14 were arrested for public violence and damage to police vehicles.

The chaos erupted after a fiery meeting at the George Thabe stadium.

A crowd of about 2 000 people ran towards the Boxer supermarket and started stoning it, and police opened fire with rubber bullets.

This led to running battles between protesters and police.

Protesters also burnt tyres and blocked off Seeiso Street and the Vuka section of the township. A bus picking up passengers was stoned as it navigated its way through the area. One passenger was injured.

As the battles with the police continued, residents hurriedly dispersed and fled in all directions.

Some fell while others managed to jump safely over fences and escape the volleys of rubber bullets.

But yesterday’s protests weren’t aimed at getting rid of Afrikaans from schools – they were aimed at “asking those governing us to adhere to their 15-year-old promises”.

Concerned residents said the promises included tarred roads, houses, employment opportunities and youth empowerment projects.

“For a long time we watched from the sidelines while people from Soweto and other outlying places managed projects in Sharpeville while people from here continue to be unemployed,” residents’ leader Jabu Makhanye said at the meeting.

“The next we see of government people is when they come here and throw festivities in the name of the fallen heroes of the Sharpeville massacre while people around here starve.”

Makhanye said the residents would boycott this year’s Sharpeville massacre events if their grievances were not seriously considered and acted upon.

“We’re an angry community, tired of understanding all the time.

“We say Sharpeville youth deserve a chance to manage projects here, be employed and make some money,” he told residents.

Makhanye added that R22-million had supposedly been used to renovate the stadium, but there was nothing to show for it.

“Our council is corrupt and we want them to step down,” he said to cheers.

Lebogang Seale and Kim Tshukulu

Holding her baby firmly in her arms, Grace Mhlongo cried hysterically as she ran out of her store. Just moments before, she had been busy in her prosperous spaza shop in the densely populated Orange Farm’s Drieziek Extension 3.

That was until a rampaging mob targeted her store, tore down its walls of corrugated iron sheets and wood, before looting her stock.

Shortly before 8am yesterday, a mob of chanting residents from Extension 3 surged towards the Golden Highway and again barricaded the busy road with burning tyres, rocks, logs and rubble.

The police reacted by firing stun grenades, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the mob.

When the mob turned on Mhlongo’s store, they started by throwing stones at the shop.

Within a few minutes, they had stormed into her store and scrambled for whatever goods they could find.

Mhlongo’s frantic wails could be heard from afar.

“My money! All my stock! What have I done wrong? Why?” she asked.

Yesterday marked day two of service delivery protests in Orange Farm, where residents say they do not have proper sanitation, housing and electricity.

In response to the protests, a delegation from the Joburg mayor’s office, led by mayoral committee member for housing and acting mayor Ruby Mathang, visited the township.

Residents grudgingly accepted the delegation’s undertaking that the laying of sewerage pipes – which had been their core demand – would resume today, after it was halted in December because of the alleged non-payment of funds to the contractor.

After the meeting, an uneasy calm settled over the area as residents surveyed the damage to property.

In total, police arrested 50 people, all of whom are facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property. They will appear in court soon.