Protest powder keg

2015-03-06 00:00

GOVERNMENT should act fast regarding the problems surrounding the R74 road in Muden before the area is engulfed by a deadly war.

That’s the warning from leaders in the area who fear that as frustration over the road’s closures mount, the community is turning on each other.

Muden has once again been ravaged by land and service delivery protests in the past week. The main road connecting the residents and the nearest town of Greytown had become unusable after residents dug trenches into it and barricaded it with rocks.

In the early hours of yesterday there were reports of continuous gunfire in the area. The road to the pension pay point was closed, forcing pensioners to walk kilometres to another pay point. Local schools were closed yesterday as teachers feared for their lives.

As people were digging up the road on Thursday last week, one person was shot in the stomach and is in hospital where he is said to be recovering.

“The government needs to intervene before this situation gets completely out of hand and we have a war on our hands because it seems the community is now turning on each other,” said ward councillor Bhojabhoja Dlamini.

“I received a call at 1 am [yesterday] with people complaining about gunfire in the area,” he said.

He later received reports that the road to a pension pay point had been closed and the affected pensioners had to walk an extra one to five kilometres to catch public transport to take them to another pay point in Muden.

“It seems the people in the lower part of Muden that cannot go to Greytown because of the blockade, are angry. They decided to close the road to the pay point to make the people on the farms and upper parts of Muden walk a long distance to the pay point,” he said.

Dlamini said the division in the community was a bad sign and was made worse by the fact that the community is also split along political lines.

Other residents, and community leaders who declined to be named for fear of being attacked, said the area is on a knife’s edge.

“The protest has become very nasty, worse than before. A motorist coming from the Greytown side was stopped by the protesters last week and pulled out of his car and assaulted. He managed to jump back into his car and flee.

“In another incident, a trucker was stopped and his battery was stolen and then his tyres were slashed,” he said.

He said the farmers were also feeling the brunt. “They are paying more to transport their produce and at times, they are unable to work at all.”

Another community leader said, “We have called three meetings with the people behind this but they have not bothered to attend them.

“This is led by a group of people. There was no big march by the community and we are waiting for these people to explain what this is about to us.”

One of the leaders of the protest, Jeffrey Ngobese, said the community was angry with the government for failing to honour its promises.

He said there were fears that a war could erupt among the community.

The community members are filled with the fear of what might happen. Residents warn motorists driving on the R74 that there is no way through.

One woman warned The Witness reporters to turn back saying, “There is no way through there. You must turn back now or you could be injured for nothing.”

Asked about the whereabouts of the people leading the protest, she said, “They are probably hiding somewhere in the bushes.”

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