By AFP


South African protesters in the Johannesburg township of Soweto on Thursday briefly barricaded the popular tourist street where Nelson Mandela once lived, police said, during angry demonstrations over electricity bills.

Tourist buses were diverted away from Vilakazi Street, which was once home to both Mandela and his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.South-african map

Residents burnt tyres and garbage at the entrance to the street before police dispersed the crowd.

Soweto has become a fixture on the Johannesburg tourist route since the end of apartheid in 1994, but City Sightseeing told AFP that its minibus tour was not stopping at Vilakazi Street due to the disturbances.

Protests started on Wednesday in a long-running dispute over residents being put on a prepaid electricity payment system.

“Some people regrouped in the early hours of the morning and threatened to burn down Mandela House and the nearby Sakhumzi restaurant in Vilakazi Street,” Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane told AFP.

“We are working to restore order, prevent damage to property and remove debris from the streets.”

Mamonyane said rubber bullets were used by police on Wednesday to disperse crowds, and that authorities had instructed tourist buses to avoid the area.

Soweto residents have been demanding to be charged a flat rate for electricity, instead of receiving monthly bills or buying pre-paid vouchers.

A meeting on Wednesday with the state-owned electricity supplier Eskom failed to resolve the issue.

Violent protests over basic services often erupt in South African townships, with residents taking to the streets to air their grievances.

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