Crowd storms police station after Komani protest leaders arrested

A planned shutdown of the Eastern Cape town was thwarted by police

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There was a standoff between police and members of Komani Progress Action outside the police station after their leaders were arrested. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Three leaders of Komani Progress Action were arrested before they could forge ahead with a planned shutdown of the Eastern Cape town.

As residents were gathering to protest about poor services on Friday morning, their leaders – Mncedisi Mbengo, Axolile Masiza, and Solomzi Nkwentsha – left the crowd to speak to police.

They then went inside the police station where they were apparently promptly arrested.

As this news spread, the crowd stormed the station. They shoved officers and swore at them and demanded access to the holding cells.

Police then used pepper spray to drive the crowd out of the station.

It is unclear whether the leaders were arrested for contempt of a previous court order against them, or an interdict the municipality had won, or if it was for an “illegal gathering”.

Questions sent to Komani police spokesperson Namhla Mdleleni for clarification have gone unanswered.

Resident Noxolo Malantyu said when they arrived for the protest, police were already waiting for them. “Every corner had police officers, but we were not shaken,” said Malantyu.

While some loitered, many protesters dispersed after a few hours. Police kept monitoring the situation. Most shops had shut their doors but then opened for business around lunch time.

The protesters had planned to march to the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality office to deliver a memorandum for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng, demanding she dissolve the council.

The second stop was to be the Department of Labour to protest over alleged victimisation of workers at security and cleaning companies.

In a media statement on Wednesday, the COGTA parliamentary committee gave a scathing report on the state of the municipality based on briefings by the Auditor General (AG) and National Treasury. “Repeat audit findings indicate that the municipality does not take the AG’s findings and recommendations seriously,” the statement said.

The municipality has been operating under provincial and national government interventions for two years after a previous provincial government intervention was unsuccessful, the statement said.

TOPICS:  Freedom of Expression Local government

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