Farmers suffer as protesters block road

2013-07-25 00:00

MUDEN residents have completely shut the main road between Muden and Greytown, bringing the transportation of agricultural produce from the area to a standstill.

Yesterday, the R74 was inaccessible to traffic after angry community members intensified their service delivery protest by placing huge rocks on the road.

Farmer Peter March said he was now only able to haul his produce during the day as it was not safe to drive at night with the rocks on the road.

The protesters have also threatened the driver of a construction vehicle who had been removing the rocks with a police escort since Monday.

“We are frustrated because this entire exercise was illegal and nothing was done to stop these people,” said March.

Koos Marais, of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union’s security desk, said this was the main road from the KZN inland to the coast. “It is not just a farm road. When people block this road, agricultural produce and tourism suffers in the province.”

Marais said the affected region is a highly productive agricultural area and it was essential for farmers to have immediate access to markets and businesses. “Fresh produce has to be transported immediately, because it cannot be stored for long periods.”

He said a commercial vehicle was set alight on Monday and that KwaNalu was concerned that other vehicles, tourists and residents may be attacked.

Marais called on Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu to step in and make the area accessible before the situation worsened.

Community leader Jeffery Ngobese said he and other leaders had tried to maintain stability in the area, but the people were angry because their demands dated as far back as 1990. He said residents had vowed to intensify their protests day and night until President Jacob Zuma addressed them.

Mchunu said he was concerned about so-called service delivery protests accompanied by acts of violence and the blockading of roads.

The MEC said violent protests that impeded on the freedom of others, including to drive safely on provincial roads, were unacceptable.

Mchunu called on those in authority to engage the protest leaders and find a lasting solution to the impasse. He said police were keeping a close eye on the situation.

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