Ten held over torching of house freed on warning

Ten people who were arrested after a ward councillor’s house was torched have been released on bail. A 12th person remains in custody
Ten people who were arrested after a ward councillor’s house was torched have been released on bail. A 12th person remains in custody
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Ten people who were arrested for protesting over a municipal outdoor gym project and for alleged links to the torching of a ward councillor’s house were released on warning on Monday, while another person had to pay R1,000 bail.

A 12th person remains in custody.

Mbulelo Taibos, 46, appeared on two charges of intimidation, 10 others on charges of malicious damage to property for breaking down a shack, and a 12th person for burning tyres on a road during a protest on Saturday.

The arrests are linked to the torching of Ward 55 councillor Mzuvukile Boti’s house in Motherwell on Friday.

Police insiders confirmed that the initial issue started on July 8 when Xolisa Konza, 40, reported a case of intimidation linked to the sports and recreation upgrades in the metro.

In March, the municipality announced R26.9m worth of upgrade projects for beaches, parks and cemeteries.

Konza is believed to be linked to the project, though it is unclear how as he told the police he is unemployed.

Ten of those arrested for vandalising his shack, aged between 29 and 72, were released on warning to appear in court on September 6, while Taibos will remain in custody until July 22 for a bail application.

Bongani Bugqwangu, 38, who was arrested for public violence, was released on R1,000 bail and is due to appear again on September 20.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said a group of men, allegedly led by Taibos, went to Konza’s shack and demanded he hand over sports equipment linked to the outdoor gym project.

A case of intimidation was opened a short while later.

Beetge said the men returned on Friday and another case was opened.

“The first suspect was arrested on both cases of intimidation by midday on Friday.

“Within 10 minutes of the arrest, a group of protesters had gone to [Konza’s] shack and started destroying it.

“They demanded the case be withdrawn and that the suspect [Taibos] be freed.

“The protesters then dismantled the entire shack before going to Mnenga Street, where the councillor’s house was vandalised and gutted.”

Protesters broke windows and forced their way into the house before lighting a fire inside, he said.

Another protest erupted on Saturday morning, with some demanding the release of the 11 who had been arrested.

“Tyres were burnt and roads were blocked.

“One suspect was arrested, bringing the number of arrests in this case to 12,” Beetge said.

Boti said the attack was uncalled for and the community’s claims were baseless.

“I keep telling them to open a case but they have another, hidden agenda,” he said.

Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party member Xolisile Peter, who said he was representing the community, said the issue of outdoor gyms fell under service delivery.

“The fact is there is no service delivery in this area and the councillor does not care.

“We have noticed that only one group with political ties is getting jobs with regards to these contracts,” Peter said.

“The community is very angry and wants answers.”