Boitumelong Township in the Bloemhof area of South Africa was the main point of protests this week as residents went on a rampage and attacked the police. Residents took to the streets and caused riots and protests over the lack of service delivering, nepotism against the mayor of that town, and corruption within the Municipality and Government.
Bloemhof is an agricultural town with approximately 28,000 inhabitants situated near the Vaal River in the North West Province of South Africa. Diamonds during 1864 were discovered in the area, and the town was established on a farm owned by John Barclay. Bloemhof (flower court) was the name chosen for this new city based on the lovely gardens. In apartheid time, different social townships were erected in Bloemhof, to accommodate other ethnic color groups. Boitumelong was and remains a dominant black township, Coverdale a former township to house colored people and Salamad to accommodate Indian people.
According to Deon Beukes, a member of the Bloemhof community said residents had to protect themselves and prevent the town from being attacked and plundered. Apparently, these protests have been rampant since April 2. Bloemhof established a neighborhood watch and reinforced this security with radios, night vision and thermal imaging goggles in an effort to protect the residents. This added protection is monitored and was paid for by the residents of the town. Beukes said the police were unable to defend themselves against the masses, as there were not enough officers to control the situation.
Beukes said about 3,000 angry black people had torched everything in the township and proceeded to advance toward the Bloemhof town. He said this was not the first time the attackers had tried to gain access to the town. The protesters acted in a militant manner, striking the residents at one place, then withdrawing and striking at another site. The upgraded security facilities helped the residents to determine the next place of an attempted assault and residents were deployed to protect the city. The main goal of the rioters was to loot the shops and set fire to buildings in the town.
When the police finally arrived, the residents were told to stand back and insisted that reinforcements be deployed. Within a few hours, the riot police within the North West area were deployed in Bloemhof in an attempt to calm the situation. Beukes said he was notified of the plans by the attackers, and their purpose was to burn towns around Bloemhof and provoke the police to break up and not be able to control the widespread destruction. He said the purpose of the attackers was to take control of Bloemhof.
According to reports, some of the residents fled the city and businesses had been closed. Police homes have been destroyed in the violent protests and the Mayor’s house was torched. The community hall and numerous municipality buildings were set on fire, and schools were disrupted. A total of eight trucks travelling on the main highway were attacked and set alight. In the Boitumelong Township, foreign shops were torched and looted. The main highway was barricaded with burning tires while the rioters pelted police with stones and petrol bombed their vehicle. Several police officers were injured and two taken to the hospital where one lost a finger in the attack.
As the news of the protests spread around the country, the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) called for calm and condemned this act of violence. The government said violent protests are undemocratic. The ANC realized the public had a constitutional right to protest but insisted the right does not suggest people should act violently and intimidate others.
According to reports arrests of more than 130 people have been undertaken since the uprising in the Boitumelong Township.
Beukes said he wanted to lodge a charge of terrorism against the group of aggressors and remained unsuccessful in this attempt due to the legality of the matter. He said all legal representatives approached to give rise to this incident had refused to get involved in this issue. He refers to the protesters as terrorists, said they are learning from other terrorist organizations, and expects more surprise attacks on the Bloemhof town.
The attack of police members in the Bloemhof area, South Africa has scarred the residents who are expecting a reoccurrence of violence from the masses who remain disgruntled with the current service deliveries and favoritism within the municipal and government structures. The recent attack by the frustrated protesters in Bloemhof South Africa has scarred the police and residents because of their terrorist strategies used when attacking a town.
By Laura Oneale