A group of protestors who said that they represented concerned residents of Bela-Bela were arrested for allegedly trying to disrupt a government event at the Khabele Primary School Sports Grounds on Wednesday, 20 July. This happened during the Waterberg Youth Career Expo that was hosted by the Minister of Public Works Thulasi Nxesi along with Higher Education and Training Minister Doctor Blade Nzimande.
A Change for Bela-Bela bakkie entered the venue where the event was held, with a passenger loud hailing that they wanted to air their grievances to the visiting leadership, since the mayor, Lucas Nhlapo, refused to attend to them. Six police vehicles immediately rushed to the scene and the group was evicted from the premises. Arguments between police and the group erupted, resulting in the police allegedly ‘shoving them around’. Police then forced them into the police vehicle before taking them to the station to be detained.
The protesters were arrested around 10:00 but were only charged after 15:00. They alleged that the police wanted to keep them for at least 48 hours.
One of the protesters, NJ Van Heerden, said that their charges were never stated, and that they were unnecessarily held in the holding area for long hours. He added that they were just trying to hand over a copy of the community’s memorandum of demands to obtain the outcome of the KPMG forensic investigation into the alleged corruption and maladministration by the municipality, to the senior government officials present at the event.
“We were not violent or disruptive, but we did not even get to mention that. The police immediately pounced on us upon our arrival and demanded that we remove ourselves from the area, with which we complied. Once we were outside the cordoned off area, which we were allowed to enter at first, the police violently pulled and shoved us around for no reason, forcing us into their vans and putting us in their holding area. They were not willing to explain why they were acting like that,” said Van Heerden.
Detective commander Lieutenant-Colonel Abel Phetla said that six individuals from the group were charged with inciting public violence. At the local Magistrate’s Court the following day the six were released with a warning, pending further investigation and in order for the police to obtain statements from the security officials who were on duty on the day. The case was sent to the Senior Public Prosecutor for further determination. The arrested individuals had a discussion with the police during their incarceration and all issues between them were amicably resolved, and they do not intend to pursue charges.
“The police confirmed that they are willing to assist the community with the application and approval process if the community do decide to
apply for a march or picket to voice their concerns. They also reiterated that all actions taken by the community to voice their concerns must be legal and within the confines of the law to ensure public order and that it does not infringe on others’ rights,” Van Heerden said. “We intend to apply for a legal picket in front of the municipality to voice our concerns to the mayor, who still did not respond adequately to the community’s demands, and hope that the community will join us. When we eventually picket if it comes to that, we intend to continue with it until we have a positive response from the mayor.”
He said that he was disappointed in the conduct of some politicians and municipal officials over the entire affair. He added that he is being painted as a target along with his non-political community upliftment initiative Change for Bela-Bela, and alleged that he has been threatened several times with severe consequences to him and his businesses after the elections if he continues with the fight to expose, in particular, the outcome of the KPMG report.
The names of the arrested individuals are; Van Heerden, Keenan Alberts, Isaac Aschendorf, Rodney Miles, Daniel Sedibana and Obed Fidelis Motau. - Lizzy Bapela