A NUMBER of shops were ransacked and plundered in a looting frenzy that covered all villages and townships in Mahikeng yesterday.
About two trucks were set alight while other vehicles were attacked as the situation continued to slide out of control in the provincial capital.
The police deployed officers but their resources were stretched to the limit as marauding youths blockaded roads.
Rubber bullets and stun grenades helped disperse protesters who would then immediately find soft targets to pounce on. In Unit 8, Mmabatho, several shack tuck shops were looted after young people, mostly of schoolgoing age, tore them apart.
They also looted a nearby butchery after gaining entrance through the roof. The social media were awash with several similar incidents in other parts of Mahikeng.
All this was done as part of a protest to force Premier Supra Mahumapelo to resign from his position.
“It is easier to walk on foot than drive in Mahikeng,” one elderly man said.
“I had to leave my car somewhere on Wednesday night because it was too dangerous to drive.”
An elderly woman in Unit 9 said: “Well, Mahumapelo may go but this way of doing things can never be condoned.”
Some said they had last seen this kind of plundering in 1993 when residents forced out the late Lucas Mangope. The ANC in North West said the protests were political opportunism disguised as a community protest.
Acting provincial secretary Sussana Dantjie said: “While there are often genuine service delivery protests, we as the ANC regard these latest acts of violence in Mahikeng as political opportunism disguised as community outrage.
“This is evident in the main call of those who have been quoted in the media attacking ANC provincial chairperson, Cde Supra Mahumapelo, who is also premier of our province, using untested allegations of corruption.”
Dantjie said it was a “deep-seated hatred against Mahumapelo” that is driven by people in cahoots with opposition parties.
She said negotiations between Nehawu and a task team appointed by Mahumapelo would continue to end the impasse that had crippled the health and social development departments.
“We condemn the violence, torching and damage to property by protesters and want to make it clear that this is wrong and unacceptable. These acts of violence have led to pupils not being able to go to schools and patients being unable to access health facilities, while public servants in clinics around Mahikeng are being harassed by some of the protesters.”
Nine people were arrested on Wednesday for public violence and malicious damage to property.
North West police commissioner LtGen Baile Motswenyane said: “We will not hesitate to take harsh steps against anybody who disregards the rule of law.”
Community safety and transport management MEC Mpho Motlhabane said no one had the right to destroy public and private properties.
“South Africa is a democratic country where people have rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
“While people have the right to gather and march, their rights are not above any other rights. There is no right in the Constitution that grants anyone permission to burn and destroy public and private property. If you transgress the law, you will face the full might of the law.”
Motlhabane said police deployments would remain in the area to ensure that the situation was normalised.