Protesters besiege Copesville, block roads Stuck residents spend all day listening to rubber bullets being fired Copesville councillor ‘won’t be returning anytime soon’

2016-04-27 06:00
Joyce Naidoo (left) and Sanele Mkhize voice their grievances during the protest in Copesville yesterday.

Joyce Naidoo (left) and Sanele Mkhize voice their grievances during the protest in Copesville yesterday.

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COPESVILLE was under siege on Monday when almost 5 000 angry ­protesters from formal and informal homes blocked all roads leading to and from the area, and burnt their ward councillor’s office.

Crowds had gathered since early ­Monday morning, calling on councillor Thandi Ndlovu to step down.

The protesters claimed the area has been “left in the lurch” and no service­ delivery has taken place there since Ndlovu became councillor in the last ­local government election.

Burning tyres, debris, broken bottles and metal road barriers were used to ­barricade the New Greytown Road up to the Bob Mattison informal ­settlement, the Brixham Road ­Extension and Copesville Drive.

It is believed protesters began ­barricading roads, with some allegedly stoning passing vehicles, from 3 am.

Police swooped in on the area early yesterday morning and attempted to disperse the crowd in lower New Greytown Road using tear gas and rubber bullets.

However, as officers entered the main road in Copesville, the larger group of protesters had gathered and police could not fire tear gas or rubber bullets as there were children among them.

Some of the protesters said they had gathered to “get the attention of the council and the district” by telling them their woes.

“We are not doing this to fight with anyone. We just want someone to hear our screams and cries. We want ­someone to help us,” said Sanele Mkhize.

Another protester, Ayanda Ngcobo, said Ndlovu made promises she never delivered. “We don’t want her here ­anymore.” Ngcobo said groups of people from Swapo, Haniville, KwaShoti and ­Copesville were coming together for the first time.

“There are no taxis operating in our area, which means we have to walk to another bus stop. While we do that, there are no street lights, but there is really long grass that criminals hide in,” said Ngcobo.

He said he had written a number of letters about their plight to the Msunduzi and uMgungundlovu District municipalities, but there had been no response.

“We want the ANC to come here and take her [Ndlovu] away. We want the municipality to come and see how we are living, and we want another councillor to be appointed in the meantime,” he added.

Joyce Naidoo, of Satinspar Drive in Copesville, said Ndlovu “picks and chooses” who to assist, and the Indian community is usually left stranded without assistance.

“We receive no help from her when it comes to applying for our grants or anything else we need to address in the area. There are so many problems and now we realise that the entire community, including people in the informal ­settlements, is suffering. That is why we want her out,” said Naidoo.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said Ndlovu had ­“abandoned” the community and did not hold meetings to provide feedback.

“She refuses to give out the hall keys if people want to hold meetings to ­discuss issues of crime, which is rife in the area,” said the resident.

Addressing the crowd on Monday, ­Brigadier Francis Bantham said: “You have a right to be angry, but you ­relinquish that right when you block roads and burn things and put other people’s lives in danger.”

She later said that police had called in back-up from Durban. Bantham said emergency services vehicles had been able to access Copesville yesterday.

Umgungundlovu North Cluster spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim said the police were monitoring the situation very closely.

“Two cases of public violence have been opened by the police and 19 arrests were made today,” she said.

DA mayoral candidate Mergan Chetty called on the ANC and Co- operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube to deal with the issues at hand.

“These ANC members are holding the city to ransom. This has far- reaching consequences for our city and people’s lives are at risk,” he said.

Chetty added that Dube-Ncube should heed the DA’s call for her to ­intervene in Msunduzi.

“The MEC must come and take ­responsibility,” he said.

Dumisani Shelembe of the EFF said they would monitor the situation to see how it unfolded.

“We cannot allow the ­municipality not deliver to the people. Everyone should receive proper service.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday afternoon, councillor Thandi Ndlovu said she was “shocked” at the news that protests were taking place in her ward.

“I am not in Pietermaritzburg. I am still shocked at hearing about the ­protests and I do not think I will be returning anytime soon,” she said.

Told that residents in her ward were calling for her to step down, and claiming there was no service delivery, Ndlovu laughed and said, “I have done a lot for the people in Copesville.”

She then refused to answer any further questions, referring The Witness to Msunduzi Municipality for comment. Msunduzi spokesperson Nqobile Madonda did not answer questions regarding Ndlovu, but said the council “notes today’s actions and will be engaging with the community to find viable solutions to the current state we find ourselves in”. Madonda urged protesters to remain calm and respect the rights of other residents, and not stop them from engaging in their daily activities. — WR.

RESIDENTS living in Copesville could not leave the area on Monday as all routes in and out of the suburb were barricaded.

Children did not attend school and most residents did not go to work. Some, however, braved the protesters and walked through burning debris in desperation to get out of the ­situation.

“It was like a war zone here. We were afraid for our lives and all we could hear were gunshots and screams,” said Yergeshan Balan.

“This is a huge inconvenience. We could not go to work and continue with our daily activities.

“We spent all day listening to ­rubber bullets being fired, loud screams from the crowd, and protecting ourselves from the strong tear gas in the area,” said Balan.

“It was really scary because we ­haven’t experienced something like this before. We had to stay indoors because people were running through the streets with weapons and bricks, and swearing at us for not joining them,” he said.

People whose families live in Copesville were worried for their safety.

“It is so stressful being at work in Durban while my family is home in Copesville. I am seeing all the pictures and videos of what’s going on on the Internet and I feel so helpless,” said Shika Chanderdave.

Another resident said she had to dress in casual wear in th emorning so the ­protesters did not notice her going to work.

“I could not wear my work uniform because I was scared they would ­attack me if they saw me going to work,” said the resident, who would not be named.

“I had to explain to my employers what was going on. I had to walk quite a distance into Orient Heights for a family member to fetch me,” she said.

Another resident, who also asked not to be named, said, “It was horrible. At one point the police used tear gas which filled up my house.

“My one-year-old son and one-and-a-half-year-old niece were suffocating. We understand the stance of the protesters, but service delivery, or the lack thereof, is a national problem and should be addressed at ­national level.” — WR.

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