Electricity outrage

2014-05-27 00:00

A SERVICE delivery protest that was triggered by Msunduzi Municipality disconnecting electricity after residents said they had paid their accounts, descended into chaos during a clash between the police and protesters in Northdale yesterday.

Protesters blocked the road from the corner of Khan and Regina roads near Kharina Secondary School, blocking access to the school with burning tyres, rocks, refuse and branches of big trees. Pupils and workers were unable to leave the area to attend school and work.

Police resorted to using teargas to disperse the crowd as protesters retaliated by throwing stones at them. Some sought shelter, hiding in the nearby bush while others were taken away in police vans.

A resident who asked not to be named told The Witness that the drama started with someone blowing a whistle to summon residents to come outside and gather on the road. The crowd then started blocking the road with stones and a chainsaw was used to cut down trees.

Resident Sanele Mthethwa told The Witness that his electricity had been disconnected although he had paid his account.

“I am not the only one who is a victim of this. They should change the way they do things in the municipality,” said Mthethwa.

Another resident who also did not want to be named asked, “Why did they wait for us to vote, if they are now disconnecting us and demanding that we pay reconnection fees; some of us are pensioners and others are unemployed.”

For once, protesters from the formal houses and the informal settlement united into one group demanding services be provided in their ward. A letter of grievances was handed to officials from the municipality, Lungisani Kunene and Blessing Dlamini, and the community demanded to see the mayor and municipal manager.

The ward 28 protesters demanded that all their streets must have street lights, they want electricity and sanitation to be supplied to the informal settlement and they said their electricity and water bills were too high as they were just estimated. They want electricity meters to be replaced with pre-paid meters.

Captain Thulani Zwane said charges of public violence and an illegal gathering are being investigated by Mountain Rise police.

“Approximately 100 residents from the nearby informal settlement started the service delivery protest where they blockaded the road by placing rocks, tree branches and burning tyres. No arrests were made and no injuries were reported,” said Zwane.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the protest was illegal and police have dealt with it. “The speaker has sent the rapid response team members to talk to the community of ward 28, to get their issues and bring them back to the leadership of the council,” said Mafumbatha.

Late yesterday the protesters continued blocking the roads and burning tyres after their demands to see the mayor fell on deaf ears. The fire department and police were reported to be at the scene late yesterday, monitoring the situation.

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