Protesters cut down trees

2013-07-04 00:00

PROTESTS over increased taxi fares turned tense in Richmond yesterday.

Taxi fares increased by R1 this month.

Unknown disgruntled people in Ndaleni in Richmond cut down trees, which fell on live electricity wires, blocking the road.

Nondumiso Dlungwana was woken by the noise of a chainsaw as four men cut down the tree outside her home at 1 am.

“I looked through my bedroom window, scared of what was happening. Four men were cutting the tree down. I could not see their faces as it was still dark. One was lighting the area with a cellphone for the others to see to cut with the chainsaw. I was afraid that the tree would fall over onto my house but it blocked the road instead,” said Dlungwana.

The tree that blocked the road leading to kwaMagoda also damaged the fence at Margaret Njapha’s yard. Njapha was furious that the protesters damaged trees that she said meant a lot to them.

“These trees are more than 40 years old. They have been part of our lives. Now because they are not happy with the taxi fee they decide to do this. They should pay for this,” said Njapha.

The Ndaleni route taxi chairperson, Muzi Mkhize, said no one had complained about the fee increase.

“We did everything to make sure that passengers knew about the change of price and they did not complain then. This is new to us and it’s affecting our business. We also need to be protected against this.”

The protest started on Monday morning when burning tyres, road signs and rocks were used to blockade the road to Ndaleni.

Four men were arrested and released. Police and municipal officials spent seven hours cutting away the trees and removing them.

Mdu Mhlongo, a sole breadwinner supporting 13 people, told The Witness he had lost his job at a timber company because of the protest. He said the protests had occurred previously.

“This time I lost my job because they said they can’t keep me any more. I don’t know what I am going to do. My life just stopped,” said a desperate Mhlongo.

Municipal spokesperson Sbonelo Bhengu told The Witness that eight people reported having lost jobs as a result of the protest.

“This is affecting everyone … Anyone with information on who these protesters are should report them to the police or the municipality.” He said police would be monitoring the area.

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