JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA —
Zimbabweans traveling to South Africa and those staying there have been caught up in fierce election related violence that has erupted in South Africa’s governing capital city of Pretoria ahead of local government elections on the 3rd of August this year.
Disgruntled members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) went on a rampage blockading roads and burning buses including an Eagle Liner bus that was carrying twenty-one Zimbabweans heading to Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The twenty-one Zimbabwean passengers lost all their belongings when their bus was blocked and looted by the angry protesters just outside Pretoria on Tuesday morning.
After the looting the protesters set the Eagle liner bus on fire leaving only frames to tell the tale.
Angry members of the ruling ANC in three Pretoria suburbs of Mamelodi, Attridgeville and Hamanskraal brought the three suburbs to a standstill starting Monday night.
They were protesting against the ANC’s decision to sideline the current mayor Kgosientso Sputla Ramakgopa by electing a new mayoral candidate Thoko Didiza to contest the coming elections.
Roads were blockaded with burning tyres, stones and all sorts of rubbish leaving thousands of people stranded. About twenty-three buses and several cars were burnt.
A woman protester, who masked herself before talking to the media, said they will keep Pretoria on fire until the ANC withdraws the name of Didiza and replace her with their preferred candidate Ramokgopa.
“We are sitting in the RDP houses and now Sputla is helping us with everything and now they want to take Sputla away from us,” said the woman.
Journalists were also not spared by these protesters. Some were insulted while others had their cellphones forcibly taken and pictures of the protesters deleted. Lenyaro Sello is a reporter with ENCA, a private television station in South Africa.
“There was about 15 men who jumped out of the vehicle. They got to our cars banging all the cars that are around that circle near Shell garage. Pushing out. Telling us to get out. No body is allowed to be in Attridgeville. No body is allowed to get out, said,” said Sello.
Police had to use rubber bullets to disperse numerous groups of protesters who stoned passing cars and looted shops owned by foreign nationals.
Pretoria Metro Police Spokesperson Isaac Mahamba on Tuesday mid-day described the situation as serious but said the police were doing their best to bring calm to the affected areas.
“Most of the streets are barricaded. All the streets that are leading into the CBD have been blockaded with burning or barricaded objects. We just received reports that buses have been burnt.
And we are investigating that yes they could be a possibility that there is a criminal element involved in all this,” said Mahamba.
Meanwhile an ANC member who was shot last week over the mayoral candidate issue died in hospital. The ANC has distanced itself from the violent protests describing them as the work of criminals.
The government has also condemned the destruction of property in the area and is calling on law enforcement agencies to bring those responsible to book.