Protesters block roads in early morning march

2014-04-12 00:00

BIRDSWOOD in Richards Bay was blocked off for well over three hours yesterday morning, as the residents of Mandlazini staged a blockade at the entrance to the suburb.

Scores of night-shift workers who were returning home queued on one side of the protesting crowd, while many more couldn’t leave the area to get to work or schools.

The protest flowed over from a disrupted public meeting on Thursday evening, where uMhlathuze Mayor Elphas Mbatha presented the proposed city budget to the Mandlazini community.

According to sources, the residents complained that there are yearly promises made of money that is going to be spent on developments in Mandlazini, but the residents never see the projects becoming reality.

The Mandlazini youth reportedly decided on Thursday night to stage a march and people started gathering in the streets from as early as 3.30 am, blocking off the areas exit routes with burning tyres.

A strong police contingent was present, but the crowd of about 1 000 people did not cause any damage to property.

Local social media was buzzing with warnings of stone throwing, but the situation appeared calm and non-violent.

Thulani Mashaba, ANC branch chairperson and deputy mayor of the uThungulu District, met the protesters shortly before 6 am, but they demanded to see District Mayor Thembeka Mchunu and uMhlat­huze Mayor Elphas Mbatha.

By 8 am Mchunu and Mbatha had arrived and spokesperson for the community, Njabulo Mthiyane, handed over a hand- written memorandum to Mchunu, saying the community’s major demands are for infrastructure development (including tarred roads) and jobs with the surrounding companies.

Mchunu replied by agreeing to a formal community meeting tomorrow at 10 am in the Mandla­zini community hall.

The marchers finally dispersed peacefully by 8.30 am.

Meanwhile, operations at the Richards Bay airport had ground to a halt. An incoming flight from Johannesburg had to be diverted to Durban because there were no fire engines at the airport to provide emergency services.

SA Express had to bus their passengers from Durban and the departing passengers were placed on other flights.

Erica Bates, manager of SA Express, said the cost to the company runs into “thousands of rands”.

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