Protesters 'angry that locals no longer have jobs'

Polokwane - At least 20 buses contracted to transport Medupi construction workers were set alight on Monday evening, apparently by disgruntled former workers at Marapong township in Lephalale.

Locals said a group of protesters - mainly former power station workers who had been dismissed - started protesting in the evening, barricading roads with various objects, and marched to the local police station where they set it alight and also burnt municipal offices.

Witnesses said they overheard protesters complaining that they had been dismissed and were not allowed to return, and that only people from outside of the area were now working at the power station construction site.

The protest was said to have started slowly but within hours there was a huge blaze and an explosion was heard.

“They are angry that local people are no longer having jobs and people from outside are [still] working, most of them were expelled by companies [contracted] to Eskom,” said one witness.

More than 2 000 construction workers had been protesting against their dismissal in March this year. Their access cards to the construction site were disabled.

Police said Public Order officers were deployed to the area to monitor the situation. But locals said the protesters have since disappeared.

Police spokesperson Malesela Ledwaba said no one has been arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

Ledwaba said there had been “huge damage” to the municipal offices, buses and police station but the cost thereof had not yet been determined.