Botshabelo protesters clash with police as they make “desperate plea” to authorities

Mayor Gregory Nthatisi to meet with community “soon”

By Becker Semela

26 February 2024

Residents of N8 Park informal settlement in Botshabelo, east of Bloemfontein, blocked the highway on Saturday and Monday. Photo: Becker Semela

Residents of N8 Park informal settlement in Botshabelo, east of Bloemfontein, took to the streets on Saturday demanding services. They blocked the highway with stones and removed major road signs. The protest flared up again in the early hours of Monday, but by 7am police had dispersed the protesters with rubber bullets and arrested 12 people.

Police spokesperson Colonel Thabo Covane said they will face charges of Contravention of Criminal Matters Amendment Act and National Road Traffic Act. They will appear before the Botshabelo Magistrate.

Community leader Sipho Mokoena said some people were beaten by police. There was also an allegation that live ammunition was used. Asked about this, Covane only said that they were awaiting a full report.

“The protest is a desperate plea to authorities, particularly Mayor Gregory Nthatisi, to address our dire need for basic services such as formal sites, water and electricity,” said Mokoena.

He said 17 informal settlements have waited for years, some for 15 years, while “enduring living conditions that are simply unacceptable in a modern society”.

The situation was calm on Monday afternoon.

Mangaung Metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama said the mayor will soon engage with the community, but there were processes to be followed.

“We are relieved that the situation is calm and we are busy setting up a meeting with them [the community leaders] this week,” said Khedama.