PRETORIA – There was a heavy police presence on Pretoria streets on Tuesday morning as politically-related violent protests continued for the second consecutive day across the city.
Tshwane Metro Police Department spokesperson Isaac Mahamba said there has been serious “challenges” around the Daspoort tunnel, north of Pretoria.
“The protesters blocked the tunnel twice. We reopened it and they blocked it again. We are still on the ground and monitoring the situation,” said Mahamba.
“Right now I am in Hammanskraal and there are also some few issues here. The protesters burnt a truck and a bus this morning.”
The tunnel remained closed to traffic and a large crowd of protesters gathered a few metres away, blocking the usually busy Bremer. Several fires were burning on the road.
Across the city, at least 21 buses were torched overnight in Mamelodi, north of Pretoria.
On Monday, three metro police officers had to run for their lives when they were attacked by the protesters.
Violence has been unleashed in Pretoria since Sunday, as news filtered in indicating that former cabinet minister, Thoko Didiza, would be named as the city’s mayoral candidate for the African National Congress (ANC), replacing the incumbent Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
Residents said they were not happy with Didiza and wanted Ramokgopa to remain in his position.
However, Ramokgopa on Tuesday distanced himself from people protesting in his name, saying he was backing Didiza to take over.
“We (are) calling on law enforcement agencies to ensure we get a grip on the situation,” said Ramokgopa, who is also the ANC Tshwane regional chairperson.
The government on Tuesday condemned the outbreak of violence in the capital city, which has resulted in major destruction of property.
“Government condemns in the strongest terms the outbreak of violence and destruction of property which has occurred in areas in the City of Tshwane,” said a statement issued early Tuesday by the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS).
Late on Monday the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for calm.
“Tonight I call for calm in the City of Tshwane after the violence that erupted in Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Hammanskraal today – over the ANC’s imposed Mayoral Candidate, Thoko Didiza – escalated this evening,” said Solly Msimanga, the DA Mayoral Candidate for Tshwane.
Msimanga said the DA condemns the factions within the ANC that are fanning the flames of violence.
“I challenge ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe to intervene and stop the ANC infighting spilling further onto the streets of our City,” said Msimanga.
However, the ANC said the violence was not of its own doing but an act of criminality.