Cops, protesters face off

2016-01-13 10:25
Teargas canisters fly towards protesters hurling rocks at police at Lidgetton. Police clashed with the protestors after they blocked the R103.

Teargas canisters fly towards protesters hurling rocks at police at Lidgetton. Police clashed with the protestors after they blocked the R103. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Outnumbered almost 10 to one, police officers stood off against a mob of infuriated Lidgetton protesters who had blockaded the R103 on Tuesday.

After failed attempts to negotiate with the crowd — which had scattered tree trunks, branches, boulders and burning tyres across the road — police pushed forward.

The officers were met with a flurry of rocks soaring in their direction, but counter-attacked with teargas and rubber bullets as a municipal tractor cleared the road behind them.

The mob split and fled for cover in the nearby informal settlement and dense vegetation on the roadside.

Some officers chased after the protesters, making arrests as they swarmed into the valley.

It is believed the protesters blocked the road yesterday morning, and thereafter sent a smaller crowd of about 200 residents to Howick, where they would march from the falls to the uMngeni municipal offices.

According to one protester, their demands were for functional streetlights in Lidgetton, a clinic, proper water and sanitation infrastructure, and additional housing.

The group also wanted ANC ward councillor Desmond Nkuna to be removed from his position.

uMngeni municipal spokesperson Thando Mgaga said that a memorandum was accepted by Mayor Mbali Myeni. “Among the grievances raised by the community was the issue of housing at Lutchman Farm,” Mgaga said.

“The mayor informed the marchers that significant progress has been made, with the Department of Human Settlements confirming that it has budgeted for the construction of houses in the area in the 2017/2018 financial year.”

Mgaga said the municipality was sourcing implementing agents to undertake the outstanding housing projects at Lutchman Farm and other areas such as St Joseph’s, Tumbleweed, KwaMevana and Lions River.

“These projects will be wholly funded by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements,” he said. “We urge members of the community to bear with us in following these processes in order for the implementation of the housing projects to not be further stalled when funds have be made available at the provincial government level.”

The protesters were also assured that their concerns would be “communicated in earnest” to Eskom, the Department of Health and uMgungundlovu District Municipality.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest

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