Protest cripples business

2014-09-26 00:00

A SERVICE delivery protest in Tweedie near Howick saw businesses lose more than R1 million in a day’s production.

This after their employees were intimidated not to work by angry protesters from the Zuzokuhle informal settlement near the Mandela Capture Site yesterday.

About 200 people blockaded the main road linking the R103 and Howick yesterday morning.

Production at sawmills Timbers 24 and Pallet Link Group was affected by the protest.

The protesters also took pallets from the sawmills and burned them on the road. They used huge trees, rocks, unused railway sleepers, and burned pallets to blockade the road.

At one point they moved towards the N3, in an effort to block the road, but police were on hand to prevent that from happening.

Motorists were forced to a stop with traffic backing towards the N3 because the road to Tweedie was completely blocked.

Traffic officers stopped traffic at the southbound Tweedie/Howick off-ramp because of the chaos yesterday.

Police used rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Protesters threatened to sabotage the railway line next if their demands are not met.

Mphuthumi Sphamla, a community member, said they were complaining about unemployment and the lack of housing development.

“uMngeni Municipality has forgotten about us because we don’t get even ambulances attending to sick people in our area,” he said.

Sphamla said they also had a problem with water. “We drink dirty water and nothing is being done about it.”

He said they lived near the Capture Site but no employment opportunities existed for their community, but people in other wards were employed instead.

A businessman who did not want to be named said their business made 100 timber cubicles and a day without production meant that the economy has lost R1 million.

Another businessman and owner of High Point Saw Mill, Jabu Schoeman, said they lost about R250 000 in the day’s turnover because 170 employees didn’t work.

“I obviously understand and sympathise with the lack of service delivery, but there needs to be a different forum where they can address their grievances to the relevant authorities,” he said.

An angry farmer said: “Farmers are tired and were ready to shoot these people because of a loss in production; we can’t live like this.”

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga said the residents were angry because they thought other people had been hired as general labour in the Khayelisha storm water project in Mpophomeni township. “But tomorrow [today] 20 people from the area will begin work because the delay in getting protective clothes has been resolved,” he said.

Mgaga said after the bulk earthworks project they will begin housing construction.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said police arrested 16 people for public violence yesterday.

Zwane said Pietermaritzburg Public Order Police (POP) unit were alerted and their efforts to force the protestors to disperse were unsuccessful, which led to the arrest of 15 women and a man.

“The POP unit will continue to monitor the situation,” said Zwane.

Meanwhile, Zwane said about 100 people continued the blockade on the R74 between Madundube, Stanger and Thrings­post, KwaMaphumulo, demanding better services.

“POP unit members were deployed and they managed to disperse the crowd who flocked back into their area,” he said.

Police are still monitoring the situation.

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