Blitz against hot-wiring sparks violent demo

2012-07-12 00:00

PARTS of Northdale turned into a war zone last night as residents of the Nhlalakahle informal settlement retaliated against the disconnection of their illegal electricity earlier in the day.

They barricaded Bombay Road with burning tyres and stoned passing vehicles.

By 7 pm last night, the intersection between Bombay Road and Balhambra Way was in flames.

Protesters moved through the dark as plumes of smoke from the burning tyres created a barrier between them and the police and fire-fighters on either side of the road.

At the time of going to press the situation remained unchanged, with police unable to enter the settlement to try to contain the situation.

Angry protesters threw rocks and bottles at passing cars and whoever dared to come near the burning tyres.

Cars driving down Balhambra Way to join Bombay Road had to make a mad dash past the stone-throwing protesters.

One motorist had his back window shattered.

He parked on the side of the road to make an inspection of the damage.

“I don’t know what I have done to these people. It’s going to be a battle for me to sign affidavits and filing for insurance claim to fix this mess.

“You could swear that what they are fighting for is legitimate, but they are in the wrong,” said the motorist, who asked not to be named.

Fire-fighters and police officers stood at a cautious distance lest the protesters stoned them.

A senior fireman, who identified himself as J.S. Marais, remarked that if the protesters could shoot, no one would know who had fired the shots.

Marais had barely spoken when a brick from the other side of the settlement landed between the bystanders and the police, sending everyone scurrying back.

“I can’t send my guys there … For us to get the fire out, it must be safe there,” he said pointing to the blocked road.

The drama started after officials from the Msunduzi Municipality’s disconnection unit, accompanied by police, raided Nhlalakahle to remove all illegal electricity connections.

Members of the team, who declined to be named as they are not allowed to speak to the media, said they collected about a ton of wires.

“There must have been 150 houses in this area,” said a municipal worker.

“We had to go house by house to remove all these illegal connections.”

The residents began protesting at about 5 pm yesterday.

The worker added: “They first burnt the tyres from the top of the settlement and then rolled them down to the road.

“One of the tyres almost burned one of their houses.”

A municipal team member said the residents in the settlement had been stealing electricity for the past two years.

“They steal electricity from the street lights and this leads to overheating of transformers and power outages,” he said.

Ward councillor Rooksana Ahmed said attempts were being made to resolve the situation.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma could not be reached for comment.

Police said they would only be able to comment today.

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