PROTESTERS close down Greytown

2019-02-20 06:02
Protesters block the road with rubble and tree branches. PHOTO: andile sithole

Protesters block the road with rubble and tree branches. PHOTO: andile sithole

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MORE than 200 protesters blocked all exit roads in Greytown and vowed to bring the town to a standstill if their demands were not met on Monday.

The protesters burnt tyres and barricaded roads as they demanded that uMvoti Mayor Thamsanqa Ngubane step down.

The protest started on Sunday night with residents from Ward 7 protesting in the streets, accusing the leadership of the municipality of ignoring their demands.

During the march, some shops closed while the protesters chanted slogans and burned tyres. Despite cars being torched during the march, protestors denied being responsible for the burnt vehicles.

The protest affected pupils, workers, hospital patients, and local businesses as the protesters took to the streets to demand that KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala­ come to address them.

A protester leading the march who did not want to be named said the community is furious because the councillor for Ward 7 resigned from his position. Additionally, the community called for all labour for the construction of a new tertiary education facility be given to Ward 7 residents.

“There’s a construction project of the FET College in Ward 7. We see outsiders getting jobs which are meant for the people of Ward 7. We are tired of the corrupt officials from uMvoti Municipality. We want Sihle Zikalala­ to address us. We are not going to move away until Zikalala comes to us,” he said.

The construction of the FET college has come to a standstill for the past 14 days as residents allegedly stopped construction, accusing people from outside wards of taking their jobs.

Spokesperson for uMvoti Municipality Phindile Phungula said the idea of building an institution of higher learning was going to bring a positive change in the lives of many in the community.

“It would seem that a handful of residents, believed to be from Enhlalakahle, are staunchly against the efforts of our government and our municipality. The group, who refers to itself as the Enhlalakahle Community Committee, cited their main concern as that of employment. The group alleges that employment opportunities at the FET Construction should exclusively be for the Ward 7 community since the location of the college is in Ward 7.

“The municipal administration and political leadership have gone to great lengths in at least four engagements; held on January­ 24, January 25, January 30 and January 31; with the committee delegation [to explain] that the opportunities at the college are for all 14 wards in the municipal jurisdiction, including Ward 7.”

Phungula said the committee delegation has categorically rejected these explanations and have gone as far as to employ violent means to prevent the college from being constructed if all opportunities are not exclusively reserved for Ward 7 residents.

“The protesters have taken it upon themselves to block the main roads into the township and, by so doing, deprive residents of essential services such as the collection of refuse as municipal vehicles cannot enter or leave the township. This poses a health hazard for residents and a danger for children who may be prone to playing with the rubbish. The reading of meters is also a concern which will later affect residents,” Phungula said, adding that the blocking of the roads posed a grave threat to patients in the nearby hospital as ambulances could not enter or leave the area.

Phungula added: “We therefore ask residents to exercise patience and refrain from partaking in these illegal blockades. We have officially approached the local SAPS and trust that a resolution will be reached speedily.”

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said: “A group of people blockaded Bell Street with burning tyres and rubble. They allegedly set a vehicle on fire. A case of public violence was opened at the Greytown police station for investigation. Police are still in the area, monitoring the situation.”

Protest action reportedly continued on Tuesday morning. Protesters were waiting for the arrival MEC Zikalala to address them.

No further updates were available at the time of going to press on Wednesday.

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