Protest ends in chaos

2014-09-16 00:00

CHAOS twice erupted along the new Greytown Road yesterday as angry community members engaged in running battles with the police in a protest over the electricity supply.

Irate residents of the Izinkethe area in Ward 30, just above Copesville, yesterday morning blocked the R33 to Greytown and New Hanover with rocks and burning tyres, demanding electricity. The protest continued well into midday and flared up again after 7 pm.

For a distance of about 200 metres, the road was littered with large rocks and other rubble and was unusable.

Cars heading from Greytown into Pietermaritzburg were diverted via the Wartburg Road, those heading out of the city towards Greytown were diverted through Panorama Gardens and other routes.

The protesters said they blocked the road after a contractor abandoned a project to electrify the area because of non-payment. Poles had been put in and wires in some cases, but there were no connections.

A community leader, Thembinkosi Zuma, said the trouble started on Friday night when they learnt that a contractor employed by the Msunduzi Municipality had decided to stop working because he had not been paid.

“We called a community meeting yesterday [Sunday] and the community decided that we will get up in the morning and block this road, because maybe then the mayor and the city leadership will take our grievances seriously.

“The community will not move from here until their demands are met. We just want legitimate electricity connections,” he said.

While Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela was busy talking to community leaders, a dog stepped on an illegal electricity connection and was electrocuted, letting out a whimper before limping away.

“If this were a person, they would be dead.

“Many people have been killed by these illegal connections. How many more must die before we get electricity?” screamed another resident, pointing to three live wires running across the road.

The community was involved in running battles with the police, who fired rubber bullets during the confrontation.

There were also reports that some residents had earlier stoned cars that had tried to go through the area.

One man, who claimed he was not part of the protest, said he had been shot in the mouth with a rubber bullet. His mouth was badly hurt.

He said, “I was coming from Raisethorpe and found the police shooting at the people.

“They shot at me and thereafter demanded that I move the rock from the road.

“I refused to remove the rocks that I had not put there.”

Councillor Jay Singh said they would hold a meeting with the residents today to assure them that the project would be completed.

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