Move to quell protest

2014-09-18 00:00

THE provincial government moved swiftly to contain protests from a community on Old Greytown Road.

Led by the Premier Senzo Mchunu, MECs and mayors visited the eZinketheni community yesterday and announced fast-track plans for service delivery, especially electricity.

Among those present was Mchunu, Mike Mabuyakhulu, the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, Nomsa Dube-Ncube, the MEC of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and local mayors.

The community had protested for two days. They blocked the R33 Old Greytown Road with large rocks, rubble and burning tyres and engaged in running battles with the police that left several people injured and others arrested.

Cars travelling between Greytown and Pietermaritzburg were diverted onto other routes. At one point, the community created a human barricade by sitting on the road.

Top government leaders visited to try to quell the protest for fear it might grow and to persuade the residents, many of whom were wearing ANC apparel, to resolve the “unique” situation in their ward.

The ward is “unique” in that it is under a DA councillor, but eZinketheni is an almost exclusively ANC area and so it is fraught with political conflict. Protesting locals do not disguise their resentment of the councillor.

They had protested after learning that the contractor connecting electricity had abandoned work. The project had already been delayed by more than a year after another contractor allegedly absconded.

Msunduzi mayor Chris Ndlela and Mchunu announced that the contractor will no longer he paid by the implementing agent, but rather by the municipality to make sure there are no more delays to the project.

Mchunu said: “The previous company in charge sometimes had financial difficulty and did not pay the contractor … with the municipality taking over making the payment to the contractor, there will no more delays.”

Speaking to The Witness after the meeting, Ndlela said poor communication and poor relations between the councillor and the ward committee were to blame for the volatile situation.

He insisted the contractor has not abandoned the project and would resume work by today.

An official from Isizwe Electropak Projects and Trading, the company responsible for installing the electricity and who only identified himself as “Njabs”, claimed work was continuing.

Pressed on the allegations that they abandoned the work because they had not been paid, he said that was not true.

“We are employed by the municipality; this is their area. If you want to find out what is happening there I would implore you to please call the municipality,” he said.

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