Protesters arrested

2015-12-13 22:43
One protestor being handcuffed by police as he resisted arrest by lying on the floor of the Doull Road municipal depot.

One protestor being handcuffed by police as he resisted arrest by lying on the floor of the Doull Road municipal depot. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Striking workers at a Pietermaritzburg municipal depot turned hostile on Friday as police confronted them, arresting more than 50 people.

After a five-day crusade of littering the streets and burning rubbish in a spate of protest action, striking municipal staff were arrested yesterday for contravening a court order obtained by the Msunduzi Municipality earlier this week.

At about 9 am yesterday, a team of police officers approached the striking staff at the Doull Road depot, warning them that if they do not cease their protest action and return to work, they would be arrested.

Not heeding to police warnings, the protesters continued singing and dancing.

Half an hour later, the first police truck rolled through the gates as police asked protesters to enter the vehicle willingly.

With police keeping a stringent watch, the first group of protesters stormed into the truck, kicking and stamping their feet while raising their fists to spur on their colleagues.

The ruckus from inside the truck could still be heard as it pulled away, bound for the Loop Street police station.

As the second truck arrived, one protester resisted arrest, lying with his stomach on the floor. Five police officers had to force the man to his feet as he kicked and screamed.

Eventually, police had to bind the man’s hands and feet to overpower him.

When Weekend Witness went to print yesterday, the police were still in the process of charging the protesters who, according to Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese, were delaying the process by not co-operating with charge officers.

“The intention was to charge them all for contravening a court order and have them appear in court by the end of [yesterday] but the process did not happen as quickly as we anticipated,” he said.

Essential services such as refuse collection and the repair and reconnection of electricity and water services were brought to a halt this week as the workers — who say they have been employed on temporary contracts (some for up to 15 years) — demanded permanent posts.

Before his arrest yesterday, one staff member, speaking on behalf of the group, said they are disgusted by the municipality and the local government.“A taxi conductor earns more than we do and we clean people’s s**t everyday. This is unconstitutional,” the man said.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda yesterday said that with the arrest of those on strike, services will resume as normal.

“Contingency plans have been made to speed up the cleaning process,” she said.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    arrest  |  protesters

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