'Poor living conditions led to Zamdela protests'

A local mayor believes the poor living conditions in Zamdela led to the violent protests.

Aftermath of the violent protests in Sasolburg on 21 January 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN

SASOLBURG - The Metsimaholo Municipality in the Free State son Friday said it was in the process of setting up programmes to look into the living conditions of people in Zamdela, Sasolburg where violent protests broke out this week.

Four people were killed when residents took to the streets in opposition to the proposed merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe municipalities.

Some say they are already living in abject poverty and fear if the municipalities are merged they will not get jobs.

Metsimaholo Mayor Brutus Mahlaku says he believes the residents' frustration drove them to turn violent and loot shops.

"We also need to look at the economic viability of the municipality."

On Sunday, Zamdela residents went on a rampage after Premier Ace Magashule failed address them.

They believe the merger will not benefit their municipality.

They started looting shops, burning municipal property and damaging a local police station.

Four people were killed in the violence.

The Independent Police Directorate (IPID) is investigating the deaths following allegations of police brutality.

On Thursday, scores of protesters who were arrested earlier this week appeared at the Sasolburg Magistrates Court.

They were arrested for looting and public violence.

Some residents said their relatives were wrongfully arrested after violence erupted following the decision to merge two municipalities.

The merger has since been temporarily halted by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi.

The situation in Sasolburg remains calm.