LICHTENBURG, May 25 – The mayor of Ditsobotla Daniel Buthelezi is resting at a safe place after he was held hostage, Community Safety MEC Dr Mpho Motlhabane said on Thursday.
“The mayor is resting at a safe place. We are here to view the damage cost. The chamber is gone, offices are damaged,” he said after he visited Ditsobotla municipal offices in Lichtenburg.
Furious residents of Boikhutso, also known as Phola, near Lichtenburg held the mayor hostage on Wednesday and set alight a portion of the municipality.
“The issue here is not about service delivery as being portrayed. The community wanted inclusion and prioritiSation in the Integrated Development Plan ([DP], they wanted some projects to be brought forward to the 2017/18 financial year instead of the 2019/18 financial year.”
He said IDP consultation processes were not yet finalised and the council had not yet adopted.
“There are projects in that community, a stadium is being built there and other projects are ongoing. The issue is not service delivery.”
Motlhabane appealed for calm and condemned the incident.
North West police earlier said 32 people were arrested after the mayor was held hostage.
“We have arrested 32 people for kidnapping, attempted murder and arson. They will appear in court soon,” said Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane.
She said a group of people from Boikhutso held Buthelezi, his bodyguard and a driver hostage on Wednesday. Some of the group were allegedly armed with dangerous weapons such as knives.
“The mayor was released following successful negotiation that culminated in the arrest of 32 suspects, including nine females. The hostage-takers were allowed to get into two minibuses as part of their demands, but were arrested a few minutes later after departing the municipal offices.”
Municipal spokesperson Pius Batsile said residents of ward three in Boikhutso had raised concerns about the IDP at a meeting on Monday.
“They wanted to have a meeting with the mayor on Wednesday to present their concerns. The meeting was peaceful, we were surprised that they held the mayor hostage,” he said.
The cost of the damage was not yet known.
The building was cordon off on Thursday. Municipal workers were standing in groups at a shopping complex near the building and later left.
– African News Agency (ANA)