GAUTENG premier David Makhura says individuals with ambitions of becoming municipal councillors are behind the current wave of service delivery protests.

Makhura‚ who was presenting his office’s budget at the legislature‚ quoted a report which pointed to a big increase in the number of protests in the first quarter of this year.

TMG Digital reported earlier this month that Municipal IQ data “shows that if sustained at the same rate as the past four months‚ major service delivery protests in 2016 will reach a new peak level”.

This year has — up to April 30 — seen 70 protests compared to a total of 164 for 2015‚ and 191 for 2014.

On Tuesday a violent protest over evictions entered its second day in Hammanskraal where evictions of informal settlements resulted in the death of two people.

Evictions in Suurman and Kanana had to be called off, although the Red Ants company handling the evictions said the two were not their employees.

Red Ants security and evictions services Chief Operations Officer Fuzile Balintulo said the company had been told to stop evictions on Tuesday for the safety of their members.

“We are having what we call a cooling off period where we don’t go to the area‚ following tensions yesterday.”

Balintulo said a meeting between different stakeholders was held on Tuesday morning to discuss a way forward over the removal of illegal settlers in the area.

Three buses were torched and a truck and cars damaged when angry residents took to the streets on Monday.

Makhura said the increasing protests were a matter of concern to the government.

He said through interaction with protesting communities it became clear that they were largely motivated by political ambition.

“What is clear is that the election atmosphere has a lot to do with many of the current protests.”

“In fact‚ a lot of protests are being organised by people who have either lost out on being candidates or those who are positioning themselves to be candidates in the forthcoming elections‚” he said.

He said the government was unable to assist people who were holding protests because of their ambition to hold public office.

“Ntirhisano (the government’s ‘working together’ initiative) is not meant to address ambitions of local aspirant incumbents. We can’t stop protests that are about party political or individual ambitions.”

He condemned acts of violence‚ which are a common feature of protests.

“We note the resurgence of violence and wanton destruction of property and would like to once more condemn these acts of criminality in strongest terms. The law enforcement agencies must do their work to apprehend the perpetrators of violence and malicious destruction of property. No party or politician must justify lawlessness and anarchy‚” Makhura warned.

Meanwhile, back in Hammanskraal, police spokesman Tsekiso Mofokeng said the SAPS were monitoring the area.

“We have beefed up the police presence in the area. We have not experienced any major problems today except for small groupings every now and then but no violence.” Mofokeng said.

Mofokeng said four people were arrested on Monday. One person was arrested for murder and the others were arrested for public violence.

A resident in the area confirmed that the evictions had stopped: “There are not evictions in the area today and we are happy. That’s why there are no protests today because they stopped damaging our homes.”

TMG Digital