Mooi River: situation desperate

2014-08-27 00:00

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures.

The chief financial officer of Mpofana Municipality will leave his desk to sell electricity vouchers to residents while the protest there continues.

This is according to municipal manager Max Moyo, who said critical contingency plans would be put in place as municipal services yesterday came to a standstill amid the ongoing protest action.

Defiant and indefatigable, the Bruntville and Rosetta protesters have held the small town of Mooi River to ransom since Friday demanding the mayor, Janet Mchunu, resigns.

Yesterday they continued their attempts to block the N3 but police were able to avert disruptions.

The Greytown road was blockaded with burning tyres earlier in the morning but was later cleared. A blockade on the R103 was cleared but there was a big log blocking the dirt road towards the Spring Grove dam.

Police monitoring the situation were strategically placed at hotspots on both the N3 and the R103 to ensure that motorists had a clear route.

From time to time protesters would throw a burning tyre onto the side of the N3, which did not impact on the traffic flow.

Businesses opened yesterday after most had shut down on Monday because their employees were intimidated into joining the protests. Threats were made that their homes would be burned down if they didn’t.

Wimpy staff members yesterday came to work, saying those who had threatened them on Monday did not wake up as early as they had the day before to block their passage to town.

Some pleaded with police to escort them back home after work because they feared they would be targeted.

“We are tired of this and wish that these young people would stop these protests,” said a staff member.

Police have not yet removed the palisade fences blocking the main entrance to Bruntville.

Yesterday, the protesters returned in their numbers to burn tyres and block services from entering their area.

Residents of Mooi River who wanted to buy electricity were left frustrated when they discovered the council offices were not selling electricity vouchers yesterday.

Fredrick Smith, a senior citizen, said: “We can’t buy electricity in this town because the outlets are off-line and the municipality has shut down all services,” he said.

Another senior citizen who was turned away at the municipality, William Holiday, said, “In the Bible it says you reap what you sow.”

He said there appears to be a general collapse of everything.

Residents felt that the youth had made their point and that things in the town should get back to normal now.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

KEN Denysschen, DA councillor in Mpofana Municipality and constituency chairperson for Mooi-uMgeni, said the problem started when the community were angered about the recruitment process during the laying of the water pipe in the construction of the Spring Grove Dam.

“It was escalated when councillors promised to remove the mayor by placing a vote of no confidence in her and when they had failed, the community was angry and called for the removal of all of them,” said Denysschen.

He said this has eroded business confidence in the area with shop owners demanding urgent intervention or they will relocate their businesses, which will cause even more unemployment. “On Monday, businesses were shut down and those which opened today are not making any profits.”

Denysschen said: “The situation is so tense that I don’t see the protest ending any time soon.”

MPOFANA municipal manager Max Moyo said this was a political problem and needed a political solution.

“As the administration we have been hampered by the protests because our staff are being threatened not to come to work.”

He said only managers reported for duty but they too were intimidated by protesters who threatened to burn their homes because of the ongoing protests.

Moyo said they hoped for an urgent solution but said it has reached a point where services have been halted at the municipality. “The situation is volatile and only when this matter has been addressed by the political leadership, will the municipality be able to function as normal,” he said.

KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu called on the residents of Bruntville to conduct their protests within the law without hindering the normal functioning of the area and the N3 highway.

Mchunu said a departmental team have visited the area and engaged in efforts to initiate dialogue with all parties to resolve the conflict.

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