Protest holds traffic

2014-02-20 00:00

PROTESTERS from Ofafa near Ixopo closed the R56 with burning tyres and trees for more than five hours yesterday.

Traffic built up on the road, which is used as an access route to the Eastern Cape, as the protest about electricity, water, roads and houses played out.

Community policing forum chairperson Douglas Mkhize, from Ward 3, told The Witness that they were getting bills they could not afford from Eskom.

“We are being charged between R3 000 and R9 000 for a connection to Eskom. Most of us can’t afford that and the municipality is not helping us.”

Simon Nsindane said more than 100 people died in two bus accidents in the area because of the poor condition of the gravel roads.

KwaZulu-Natal Traffic Road Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the road had to be closed for five hours yesterday.

“Traffic coming from Richmond to Ixopo could not pass [through] … as both lanes were closed. It was difficult for road users as there is no other alternative road they can use. They had to wait until the road was opened,” said Mngomezulu.

Amos Mfeka, a resident, alleged he was assaulted by police during the protest. “I am going to open a case against the police.

“They just klapped me with an open hand and fist. They put me in the van without an explanation. I was helping control the crowd,” Mfeka told Sisonke District municipality mayor Mlungisi Ndobe when he arrived to meet the community.

The mayor asked residents to disperse and promised that they would hold a meeting on Thursday next week.

“We will meet next week because we understand the problems facing our community and we will be coming with Eskom, government departments and even the premier or a delegate from his office,” said Ndobe.

He explained to The Witness that the problems in the area were being handled. “We have three substations that are being built within the municipality because we want every household to be electrified. The problem was that the ones that we have could not cope,” he said.

Motorists waited on the road as police came to the rescue with tear gas and rubber bullets to chase the crowds away while firefighters extinguished the fires and removed tree branches.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a case of an illegal gathering was opened at Ixopo for investigation and no arrests have been made. “Police had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd that was not complying and no case of assault has been opened.”

Eskom’s Joyce Zingoni said they will investigate the claims by the community.

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