Hambanathi shut down by protests

2016-06-09 06:00
Photo: graham barclay The road block set up by protestors on the corner of Hambanathi and Khangela roads in Hambanthi, Tongaat, where protests raged for more than five hours.

Photo: graham barclay The road block set up by protestors on the corner of Hambanathi and Khangela roads in Hambanthi, Tongaat, where protests raged for more than five hours.

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THE small community of Hambanathi, on the outskirts of Tongaat, came to a complete standstill on Monday morning, 6 June as destructive protests swept through the streets of the township.

The protest was one of a string of others being carried out in areas including Nandi Drive and KwaMashu in Durban, right towards Shakaskraal and KwaDukuza in the north.

According to some residents of Hambanathi, they were woken up to the sound of gunfire at around 3am when protestors took to the streets, with the protest lasting until around 10am.

Plumes of smoke could be seen rising above the roofs of houses, with the smell of burning rubber on the roads of the township overpowering.

Protestors barricaded roads with heavy metal containers and large cement pipes at various points in the township, including at the corner of Hambanathi and Khangela Roads, where angry protestors amassed in a group of about 50, some armed with sticks and knobkerries.

One of the protestors, ‘Ngwenya’, who was unwilling to provide his real name for fear of legal recourse, said he and his fellow residents were protesting against the election process, which they deem unfair and undemocratic.

“We are here doing this because the ANC member the party put forward to stand as councillor is not supposed to be next in line. There are two candidates who are meant to serve before him, but the correct processes were not followed,” shouted Ngwenya.

“We are also angry that the police arrested some members of our community as we are exercising our democratic right to protest. We should decide as a community who we want to represent us, not just anyone the party puts forward,” he added.

Just before 9am, police arrived at the scene and were met with jeers from the angry crowd, who also attempted to turn around a taxi filled with local taxi bosses.

A stand-off between the two groups then ensued, with some men from the taxi hitting the metal box blocking the road with knobkerries before moving them out of their way.

One of the taxi bosses, who also refused to give his name, said they were there to protect their business interests, as the protest had prevented them from using the roads.

“It is fine for people to protest, but we are fed up with them preventing us from doing our work, which is why we came to clear the roads. It is bad for business,” he said.

As a result of the violent protest action taking place in the township, Hambanathi was completely shut down and schools in the area, including Tongaat LP and Mbonisweni Primary were closed as a result.

Scores of residents uninvolved in the protest stood watching the action from a short distance away, with children as young as five dodging stones and glass bottles as protestors threw them onto the street.

Due to the scale and severity of the protest, Tongaat SAPS requested back-up from other police divisions, including the riot police from as far as Newcastle and Ugu.

More protests of this nature are expected to take place in the run up to what has become a highly contentious local election process on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is also on standby in the event of further civil unrest.

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