Locals demand action

2019-01-16 16:38

The community of Mbutshana in Hilton is demanding answers from Msunduzi and its ward councillor regarding “empty promises” to tar a dirt road.

About 300 members from the community blocked off Denis Shepstone Drive, near Knoll Drive, from the early hours of  Tuesday morning.

Police later confirmed that eight people were arrested for public violence.

The protesters allege they were made several promises in the last two years by ward councillor, Sbu Mtshali, that the Knoll Drive would be tarred. The long road leads into Sweetwaters.

The community said the road is the main entrance to the location, and cars are getting damaged on the uneven gravel surface. They also complained that the wind blew dust from the dirt road into their homes.

That area of Hilton has several dirt roads. The Witness reported previously that Crompton Road and Dalry Road were “virtually unusable” dirt roads with no installed stormwater systems. St Michaels Road in the same area is similarly badly degraded.

Protesters braved rainy conditions and blocked the road with alight logs, tree stumps, rubble and branches.

Traffic was diverted away from Denis Shepstone Drive, and riot police were in full force at the scene on Tuesday morning. Firefighters were deployed to douse small embers and clear the road.

Lunga Zondi, who has lived at Mbutshana for the last 19 years, said: “They started tarring the road about two years ago, then suddenly stopped and there has been no meeting or feedback. There is about 50 metres left to tar and yet nothing is happening,” he said.

Dumisani Ndlovu, a 19-year-old who has lived in the area his entire life, said the protest started as early as 3 am Tuesday morning.

“Three months ago they said they’ll fix the road but still nothing,” he alleged. “If we don’t get any response, we will repeat our protest.”

Mtshali on Tuesday denied that he was not relaying information about the road to the community, saying that there was a meeting about it just last Friday, which was attended by officials from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport. He explained that the road was commissioned to be tarred as far back as 2011, but because of its length it had to be done in phases.

He said phase one and two have already been done, but a complication with the contractor meant phase three was delayed. “So we have to go back to the drawing board and start the process of finding a contractor again.”

He said he met with City officials about the situation on Tuesday, and intended to report back to the community. “Sometimes community members don’t understand that there are processes we have to follow. Sometimes their needs just can’t be met immediately.”

Msunduzi did not respond to a query.

By late Tuesday, a resident in the area who asked not to be named, told The Witness that the protest had flared up again. “They have blockaded the road again and are calling for those who were arrested to be released,” she said.

Councillor Mtshali said he had not heard about the protest starting again as he has been in meetings with other stakeholders involved.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest
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