There will be no more violent protests in Zamdela township in Sasolburg, at least not soon, but residents have vowed to "deal" with Free State Premier Ace Magashule and his government through the ballot — by booting the African National Congress (ANC) out of power in the next local election.
The social distance between the governing party and its core supporters is at the root of the many service delivery protests.
Zamdela residents on Wednesday drew a line in the sand for the party they say they love, vowing to remind voters ahead of the 2016 local elections of this week’s protests, during which ANC leaders had failed them, they said.
Calm settled over the Free State town on Wednesday after protests over the possible merger between the Metsimaholo municipality — which includes Sasolburg — and the Ngwathe Municipality, which includes Mr Magashule’s home town, Parys. People began cleaning the streets, littered with debris and remnants of the violent three-day protest, which killed two and led to the arrest of over 250 people.
Children played, and small business opened their doors and began cleaning up after being looted by residents.
Near the graveyard flanking Zamdela township, a group calling themselves the "concerned residents association" — young men who played a pivotal role in the protests — met under a tree to chart a way forward after the government’s clumsy attempt to quell the situation on Wednesday. The group wished to remain anonymous, fearing arrest.
They scoffed at Co-operative Governance Minister Richard Baloyi’s attempt to restore calm, describing him as "arrogant".
"Richard Baloyi disrespected the residents of Zamdela, he was so arrogant … we are human beings not nursery school children," said one resident. Mr Baloyi on Tuesday said the redemarcation of the municipality would be "halted", causing confusion among residents, who wanted to hear that it was "cancelled forever".
The Municipal Demarcation Board reportedly said on Wednesday that it, and not the minister, decided on municipal demarcation boundary reviews.
The issue is murky and residents are uncertain about the information they get from the minister via the community radio station. But they are weary, and the violence had taken its toll after their friend, Pule Thulo, was shot, they allege by police, on Tuesday.
His brother, Thabo Thulo, speaking from the street on which he was shot, on Wednesday said the incident showed the police did not view the community as human beings. He complained bitterly about the police’s use of live ammunition. Pule Thulo was loved by the community and worked hard to improve its plight, outside of his formal employment at the local municipality, his brother said.
The residents’ association members said they would remind the community about Mr Thulo’s death. They are angry that President Jacob Zuma has remained mum on the protests and that Mr Magashule has stayed away, despite their calls for him to address them.
"When he (Magashule) wants our vote, he comes but when we have a problem and call him, he doesn’t come … today we are thugs, when he wants our vote we are community members," one member said. "We are going to destroy the premier via the ballot."
Another member who appeared to be the leader of the group explained the "painful" decision residents had taken against the ANC. "It was said by Nelson Mandela that if the ANC government does what the apartheid government did to us, then we are to do to the ANC what we did to the apartheid government.
"Those are the words of Nelson Mandela. He loved the ANC as well as we do. But now it’s about time we do what they are doing to us. That is the only way we can eradicate corruption within our province," he said. "We will give this municipality to the opposition."
Rose Moipone, whose home Mr Thulo was rushed to after he was shot, said she saw police shooting at residents from inside the police station. "We heard a bullet hit a wall inside our house … that is when the real shooting started," she said.
She said Mr Thulo was "not making a fuss" and was "just passing by". When Mr Thulo was brought into her garden during a clash between police and residents outside the police station, her mother called the local radio station who assisted in getting him to the hospital. "We were crying because we saw him die," she said.