SA townships explode into rioting over rates
Children feared dead in scenes that recall the struggle against apartheid
Friday 07 February 1997
In violent street battles reminiscent of the worst days of apartheid, police opened fire on crowds with rubber bullets and tear gas. Some of those who turned a "peaceful" demonstration into a riot also appeared heavily armed. At least one policeman was shot in the back by automatic rifle fire.
Two children, a boy and a girl, were shot at a petrol station in Eldorado Park township, where the worst violence occurred. They appear to have been caught in a shoot-out between looters and police. Two reporters were also shot.
The fighting went on all day. As burning tyres threw up thick black smoke at makeshift barricades, and demonstrators stoned drivers who had ignored the work "stay-away", which brought their neighbourhoods to a standstill, army units were called in to back up the police.
That a demonstration against rent and service charges could have degenerated into ugliness so quickly demonstrates the level of violence that lurks beneath the surface in South Africa. It also illustrates the government's difficulty in running a country which black liberation - in order to prevail - rendered ungovernable.
In townships all over South Africa, the government is failing to persuade people to pay for services and rent. The boycott culture, which grew up during the struggle against white rule, still dominates the country, in spite of President Nelson Mandela's appeals to people to pay up and build a new South Africa.
The national Masakhane (Zulu for "lets work together") campaign has failed to win people over. Starved of revenue, local government is in crisis. The Southern Metro Council, which overseas the townships where yesterday's trouble flared, said it was owed 600 million rands (pounds 80m) in unpaid bills.
Yesterday's demonstrations, organised by the largely Coloured South Western Joint Civics Association (Sawejoca), were sparked by rumours that the council was planning to cut off electricity to those who had run up arrears and evict non-payers. Last night local ANC officials denied they had ever planned to evict people or cut off electricity.
The organisers claimed that with local unemployment running at 80 per cent, many residents could not afford to pay for services.
There was a racial dimension. The Coloured community feels hard done by.The complaint is that they were never white enough for the former ruling white Nationalists and now are not black enough for the ANC. Amy Williams, Sawejoca's secretary general, said yesterday that Coloureds were being unfairly targeted by the authorities. She claimed no action was being taken in neighbouring Soweto to recover blacks' arrears.
Mr Mandela's "pay up and pull together" appeal has already been snubbed by whites. A few months ago residents and businesses in Sandton, one of the richest neighbourhoods in Johannesburg, opposed a rates hike and their campaign of mass non-payment continues.
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza
Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of a crying Orlando Bloom after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
Kelsey Grammer forgives the man who raped and murdered his sister in 1975
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...