Zithobeni residents vow to continue protests

Residents say they won't stop setting state property alight until govt takes them seriously.

A municipal building and satellite police station was torched by angry protesters in Zithobeni outside Bronkhorstspruit on 31 January. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Residents of Zithobeni outside Bronkhorstspruit say they won't stop setting state property alight until government takes them seriously.

Residents have been up in arms since Thursday, claiming they're being charged too much for water and electricity - services they say they've gone without for more than three weeks.

They are demanding that Tshwane Mayor Kgosientsho Ramokgopa meet with them in person and accept their memorandum of demands.

It was a day of intimidation and running battles in the area yesterday where angry protesters torched a police station and blocked officers from entering the township.

Violence broke out at Zithobeni township in Bronkhorstpruit on Friday 31 January. Residents staged running battles with the police throughout the day. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

Police gather to plan their strategy against violent protesters in Zithobeni outside Bronkhorstspruit on 31 January 2014. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

More than eight hours after police attempted many a times to gain entry, tear gas and rubber bullets had to be used to finally restore calm in the area.

In just 48 hours, protesters had set fire to their local police station, a municipal office and three trucks.

One resident says the violence won't stop until government actually listens to their demands.

"We won't stop the burning of the municipal offices until government listens to us."

Twelve people have since been arrested for vandalising state property.

Meanwhile, Police minister Nathi Mthethwa says the country has a major problem with violent protests because demonstrators carry dangerous weapons.

Mthethwa was speaking yesterday alongside National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega at a public order policing conference in Pretoria.

Mthethwa says the police's main priority is to communicate with protesters to avoid violence.

"We need to ensure people don't carry weapons. Why would people carry weapons when they have the right to protest?"