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Phola (Emalahleni) Burns

A building burned during the protest

For two days now the Phola Community is in uproar, all is not well as the biggest community protest movement of late has destabilised the law and order in the coal town. What began as a peaceful gathering addressed by Pastor Chippa Mstweni has derailed into an eye sore encounter. The Phola community protest has a memorandum several requests and among those are that, attention be paid towards the reduction of load shedding that is affecting their area. In the address to the power load shedding there are requesting that a new transformer be commissioned so as to boost the capacity of their substation. Service delivery also features on the list through the requesting of legal electricity connections, proper town planning in particular in the areas of Ezipokweni and Iraq.

The protesting members are also seeking a review on the merging of Phola and Ogies to the Emalahleni local municipality, requesting that the Demarcation board undertakes the task all before the 2019 general elections. This demarcation query is a common subject amongst communities in uproar as the grass always seems to be greener in the adjacent municipalities.

The Phola community members bused some of its residence to the Emalahleni Municipality Offices in Witbank to meet with the Emalahleni Local Municipality Executive Mayor Linah Malatjie. The trip was amongst other things not a fruitful one as the rowdy crowd failed to meet with the Mayor. Our journalist Nothando Makhubela was harassed whilst trying to cover the gathering and her phone was taken from her and smashed dead on the ground. Upon returning to Phola the mob turned violent and the Public Order Policing unit had to be called in. The protesting community members set alight tyres, blocked the roads and pelted passing vehicles with stones. There was a joint operation between the Phola and Ogies SAPS to manage the situation.

The situation turned from bad to worse and according to a report from Phola SAPS the Emalahleni Municipality offices in Phola were set alight leaving a trail of broken windows and property turned to ash. The Phola SAPS arrested two suspects in relation to the matter. These arrests did not however quell the matter as on the following morning the protestors once again regrouped and gathered to continue the stand-off. At the time of going for print information was received by Highveld Chronicle that the protesting community members were planning to regroup at 0200hrs in order to block the road and restrict all traffic from accessing the town the following morning.