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Ramaphosa heads to Mahikeng as anti-Supra protests intensify

19 April 2018 - 19:29 By Aphiwe Deklerk‚ Qaanitah Hunter And Nico Gous
This is what some areas of Mahikeng looked like after protesting residents took to the streets.
This is what some areas of Mahikeng looked like after protesting residents took to the streets.
Image: @OnlyThato via Twitter

President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC heavyweights will visit North West province on Friday as protests calling for service delivery and the resignation of Premier Supra Mahumapelo continue.

Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statement on Thursday evening: “To pay attention to the situation in the North West‚ the President has decided to cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he is leading a government delegation.”

The Presidency said a statement that Ramaphosa would address an “urgent meeting” of the ANC‚ the Leagues Alliance and the ANC caucus in the province on Friday at 12pm in Mahikeng.

The party’s secretary-general‚ Ace Magashule‚ deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and national executive committee (NEC) members in the province will join Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa called for calm and asked aggrieved parties to express their grievances via “peaceful means and engagement rather than violence and anarchy”.

Violent protests erupted in Mahikeng on Wednesday. The provincial capital on Thursday resembled a ghost town after some shops were looted and closed their doors.

Entrances to Mahikeng were blockaded with rocks and burning tyres.

North West police spokesperson Adele Myburgh said nine people had been arrested since Wednesday.

A drive around the town’s CBD showed litter strewn in a number of streets with only a few cars and residents visible in the streets. However‚ there was a heavy police presence with a number of police vans seen doing the rounds.

Mahumapelo’s office on Thursday called for an end to the violent protests. His spokesperson‚ Brian Setswambung‚ said the protests were aimed at discrediting Mahumapelo.

“[It is] an anti-Supra Mahumapelo political campaign which seeks to intimidate residents of Mahikeng‚” Setswambung said.

“The campaign is also characterised by criminality as private properties of some citizens are being looted.”

The Hawks raided Mahumapelo’s office last month amid investigations linked to leaked documents that implicate Mahumapelo’s office in maladministration‚ fraud and corruption.

Pharmacists warned the protests had led to a medicine shortage in the province.

SA Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists (Saahip) said in a statement its members condemned the impact the protests were having on provincial health.

“The strike has resulted in major disruption of the supply of medicines. It is understood that the grievances of the protesters must be addressed‚ but the action cannot be condoned when the lives‚ health and wellbeing of residents are compromised.”

Saahip said closing healthcare facilities and medicine and supply shortages at provincial depots could have “devastating consequences” for patients.

“Not only is death a possibility in some cases‚ but patients who have been stabilised on chronic medicines risk having inadequate control of their ongoing medical condition‚ while patients needing medicines for acute conditions face the possibility of not receiving medicines at all.”

Saahip president Refiloe Mogal said emergency deliveries must be negotiated for medicine and supplies.

“If medicines and medical supplies cannot be delivered to the depot‚ it is appropriate to negotiate emergency delivery to private sector facilities from which the clinics and hospitals can collect their supplies.”

Mogal believed this reaffirmed their belief that a national disaster management plan must be developed for emergencies to deliver medicine and supplies.

The Botswana government has since closed its borders with Mahikeng.

“The Ministry of Nationality‚ Immigration and Gender Affairs informs the public that there are protests around Mahikeng Location Municipality. All entry and exit points into Mahikeng are closed from [Thursday] until further notice. There are no taxis and buses going into Mahikeng because the operators have joined the protests‚” the Botswana government said in a statement.

“Botswana are therefore advised to suspend trips to Mahikeng until the situation calms down.”

- Additional reporting by Penwell Dlamini and Naledi Shange

  • Additional reporting by Penwell Dlamini and Naledi Shange.