Fiery blockade of N3

2018-04-03 13:54
Mooi River residents loot a truck during a protest that blocked the N3 toll plaza and the R103 on Monday.

Mooi River residents loot a truck during a protest that blocked the N3 toll plaza and the R103 on Monday. (Supplied)

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Eleven people are expected to appear in the Mooi River Magistrate’s Court today following a dramatic day of arson and looting near the Mooi River toll plaza on Monday.

At least three trucks were burnt and looted near the toll plaza in the early hours of Monday morning as chaos played itself out.

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said the 11 people arrested were facing charges of public violence.

The protest left thousands of Easter holidaymakers returning home stranded for several hours near Mooi River as the N3 northbound and southbound near the toll plaza was closed for several hours, as were alternative routes.

Protesters blockaded roads with burning tyres and stoned passing cars.

Police and the KZN Department of Transport said the cause of the blockade centred on the employment of foreign nationals in the trucking industry whom the protesters accused of stealing jobs from locals.

The protest started at around 4 am on Monday, with residents of Bruntville township joining in the disorder that followed.

When three trucks were set alight, people looted goods from them. Plumes of black smoke rose into the air above the highway, with those who took the opportunity to loot using rocks and even an axe to break open the trucks as frustrated motorists sat in their cars unable to move at all.

The N3 was only reopened after 11 am following the arrival of police who fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the protest had severely affected traffic flow. “There was a backlog of about six kilometres. Traffic came to a complete standstill.”

Road operator N3TC tweeted on Monday evening that the highway was completely closed again, but said later the N3 was open again.

A local resident said police and firefighters had been blocked from accessing the scene.

“A truck carrying liquor became the first victim. For a good few hours people helped themselves as police could not get to the area. A truck carrying groceries was also burnt and looted on the R103. It was complete chaos,” said the resident, who asked not to be named.

Mooi Mpofana mayor Xolani Duma bemoaned the protest saying it would upset the ailing town’s attempts to attract investors.

“We are on a campaign to attract investors because Mooi River has a lot of potential. We do not need these kinds of protests in our area,” he said.

Duma said he had been told that the protesters had been dropped off by five taxis. “The first group was dropped off by two taxis and later another three taxis dropped off another group. We were shocked to wake up to these huge fires,” he said.

Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the area on Monday and said they would be meeting with the organisers of the protest to help facilitate a meeting between the truck drivers and the Department of Labour.

KZN Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane condemned the protest.

“The effect of this protest was quite huge if you take into consideration the fact that the N3 is a national road that connects KZN with other provinces and other neighbouring countries.

“This protest was unwarranted, it was called by people who wanted to cause anarchy. Truck drivers know that there are channels that are there for them to use if they want to raise issues about the employment of foreigners,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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