Medupi in flames again

By Valerie Cilliers

 

LEPHALALE – The Medupi power station remained closed this week, following protest action by Eskom contract employees last Thursday. Only administrative personnel and engineers were allowed on site while protesters continued to rally support in Marapong and Lephalale.

Spokesperson for Murray & Roberts, Ed Jardim told Northern News on Tuesday that operations at the power station were put on hold since Thursday last week when about 80 workers contracted by Murray & Roberts and Grinaker-LTA set fire to several vehicles, mobile office units and some equipment at the power plant.

It is reported that workers removed and emptied fire extinguishers on site shortly before protest action started. Protesters went on strike because the contracts of about 600 local employees were coming to an end.

On Tuesday morning three busses, were burnt at Ditloung village. It is however not clear if the incident relates at all to the protests at Medupi. No one was injured and no arrests have been made.

In Marapong more than 1200 protesters gathered in groups around 0h30 on Tuesday morning, but were quickly dispersed by police and security personnel. According to police spokesperson, warrant officer Frans Mokoena, four people were arrested for intimidation and police confiscated a vehicle, a banner and a loud hailer from protesters.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Mayor of Lephalale, Jack Maeko, addressed protesters at the Marapong stadium. The Mayor’s office was however not willing to comment on what was said at the meeting.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning police and security personnel were on high alert as protesters moved towards housing units close to town and on the Marken road to rally more support. According to Andries Bester of Molalatau Security their personnel were called out to housing units to secure property and residents. “It seems that many of the workers want to work in order not to lose their bonuses, and the protest seems to be losing momentum and support.”

Vetus Schola security this week deployed 120 extra personnel from the Northern Cape to secure the Medupi site. Molalatau Security also muscled up to secure sites around Medupi. Police unrest units from Modimolle and Polokwane were also brought in to monitor the situation.

Throughout the week rumours abounded that the former ANC youth league president Julius Malema will address protesters in Marapong on Saturday. According to Mokoena, no requests were made for any public gatherings in Marapong which would make such an event illegal as at least 7 days prior notice needs to be given.

By the time Northern News had gone to print on Wednesday, Eskom and Murray & Robberts were locked in a meeting with protesters to try and avert further protest action. LiN Media/Noordelik Nuus

Offices engulfed in flames on the construction site at the Medupi Power station in Lephalale.