Eskom warns it might have to switch off power to Bela-Bela in wake of protest
TMG Digital | 2017-02-07 19:48:52.0
Image by: SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Eskom warned on Tuesday evening it might have to switch off the electricity supply to Bela-Bela in Limpopo until calm has been restored to the area.
The power utility said that there was fire and smoke close to some power lines in the area which remained tense on Tuesday night after the local mayor’s car was torched by an angry mob earlier in the day.
It said switching off the electricity supply would be a measure of last resort in order to ensure the safety of the community.
It urged community members taking part in protest action in the town to refrain from touching or damaging electricity infrastructure as this might lead to serious injuries or fatalities.
“Eskom would like to state that it respects communities’ right to protest. However‚ it is also in Eskom’s interest to ensure the safety of the community and the integrity of the electricity infrastructure‚” the parastatal said.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said roads in the area were still barricaded and that people were still out on the streets in groups here and there.
Nine people were arrested on charges of public violence‚ arson and malicious damage to property.
“This violence was allegedly sparked by the decision taken by the council to increase rates by R500.
“[Protesters] then went on a rampage‚ barricading the streets leading into the township and those inside‚” Mojapelo said.
Local mayor Jeremiah Ngobeni’s Polo was set alight in the protests.
Police officers used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Members of the Public Order Policing service have been deployed to the area‚ with Nyala‚ to stabilise the situation.
Community leaders met with police management early on Tuesday evening‚ Mojapelo said.
“They asked for the release of the people we arrested but we obviously couldn’t. A crime has been committed.
“We really don’t condone this kind of behaviour‚” he added.
(With additional reporting from Roxanne Henderson)