Angry residents set a municipal building in Tembisa municipality ablaze over the lack of service delivery and rising electricity costs.
On Monday, 1 August, residents of Thembisa township began protests over poor service delivery and high power costs.
Four people were reported dead, two of which authorities state were allegedly killed by members of the Ekurhuleni metro police department (EMPD) after the protests broke out in the morning. The first victim was killed while buying cigarettes in Makhulong, and the second was caught in the crossfire while visiting a friend next to his home.
Disgruntled residents closed off roads with burning tires and set fire to a municipal building in Thembisa. Local municipal police spokesman Kelebogile Thepa confirmed the discovery of two more bodies at the entrance of the building in the evening, bringing the number of deaths up to four. Authorities are yet to ascertain the cause of the last two deaths. However, some reports allege that they were attempting to bomb an ATM. An investigation on this matter is ongoing.
Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell spoke out on the events stating that she relays her condolences to the families of the slain and the community. “It is a sad situation,” she said. “What happened today should never have happened because the Tembisa community forum is not violent, but what happened today is that external forces changed it into a violent situation,”
“Trade being stopped and economic activity being stopped impacts on the City of Ekurhuleni as well, in terms of revenue collection,” said councillor Fanyana Nkosi, Ekurhuleni’s finance MMC, on the economic ramifications of the protests and barricades.
The nature of service delivery protests is to cause disruptions. Therefore, a lot of local economic activity is at a standstill because of blocked-off main roads (which, in turn, prevent workers and suppliers from safely or timeously arriving to work or making deliveries), violence, and vandalism to infrastructure.
One Thembisa entrepreneur spoke to IOL about the damaging effects of the protest, highlighting that the lack of transport is why two colleagues couldn’t come to work. “This severely affected the business because I had to cancel a lot of things that I needed to do and go to the store.” said Bobo Moko, founder of Moko Originals, whose store is in the Mall of Thembisa. “Suppliers can’t even come into the mall because the roads are closed. So everything gets delayed. Deliveries have been delayed. I myself was expecting to receive stock today,” he added. On top of the disruptions to operations, the lack of customers creates another problem that negatively affects the day’s cash flow.
Eskom’s inability to supply the country with efficient, consistent, and cost-effective power has ushered in a wave of such protests. Citizens are fed up with the power cuts that have gone on for over a decade and have worsened in the last few weeks. The increasing food costs have also created rising tensions in the country as they compete with the rate of unemployment which sits at a staggering 34,5 percent. It is safe to say that the scenes witnessed in Thembisa will not be the last.