Protests over the cost of electricity in a South African township have left at least four people dead , police officials have said.
On Monday, residents angry at the high cost of basic services barricaded roads with burning tyres and set ablaze a municipal building in Thembisa township, northeast of the financial hub, Johannesburg.
“It’s alleged they have been shot,” local municipal police spokeswoman Kelebogile Thepa told AFP.
Later in the evening, Thepa said two more bodies had been found near the entrance of the burned building – bringing the total death toll to four.
Police were yet to confirm what caused the deaths, she added. Investigations were under way.
Protests over poor services occur regularly in South Africa, which is battling some of the highest unemployment and crime rates in the world. Power cuts have also become frequent in recent months, as national utility company Eskom battles high debts and a labour strike.
The latest bout of protests came less than two weeks after former President Thabo Mbeki warned the country could see an uprising similar to the Arab Spring, triggered by mounting discontent.
Protesters built a barricade to block a road after a night of riots caused by angry community members demanding better service delivery in Tembisa on August 1, 2022 [Guillem Sartorio/AFP] (AFP)
Last month, Mbeki accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of failing to deliver on his promises to tackle widespread poverty, inequality and unemployment, which stands at more than 34.5 percent, with youth joblessness at nearly 64 percent.
The situation has been worsened by the rise of food prices occasioned by disruptions in wheat supply as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.
A year ago, South Africa saw an outbreak of the worst violence the country has experienced since the end of the apartheid era three decades ago. The large-scale rioting and looting then left more than 350 dead.
The 10 days of rioting followed the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for snubbing corruption investigators. They happened mainly in KwaZulu-Natal province but also in Gauteng where Johannesburg is located.