Nine arrested for blocking N3

2018-07-19 18:32
Police watch over truck and car drivers who were arrested for blocking the N3 near Chota Motala off-ramp on Wednesday morning.

Police watch over truck and car drivers who were arrested for blocking the N3 near Chota Motala off-ramp on Wednesday morning. (Ian Carbutt)

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A Pietermaritzburg man who convened the national Fuel Must Fall protest on Wednesday wants the government to commit to taking measures to lower the fuel price.

Paul Jenkins of Cleland told The Witness he was driven to take action after the fifth fuel hike of the year was introduced this month, and he began to mobilise other disgruntled people.

Pietermaritzburg was brought to a standstill on Wednesday, as dozens of motorists shut down major roads in protest at escalating petrol prices.

There was no way in or out of the city, and traffic ground to a halt as early as 5 am. Protesting motorists blockaded both carriageways of the N3 near Liberty Midlands Mall and at New England Road. They blockaded the N3 southbound near the arrester bed at Town Hill, and the southbound carriageway at Church Street.

The protest was also seen in parts of Durban and Cape Town.

Jenkins said: “I put up a question on Facebook about a month ago asking who had had enough of the rising fuel prices. I got more than 1 000 responses. In the lead-up to [Wednesday], we had 105 different WhatsApp groups across six provinces. About 20 000 people were interested in our movement.”

Jenkins said he had already handed over a memorandum to the KZN Premier’s office, and had communicated with the presidency about the issue.

His ultimate goal is for a task team and committee to be established to look at the possibility of lowering the fuel price. “The committees must include lobbyists and members of the public.”

At about 8.30 am the protest was broken up by police and traffic was beginning to flow normally. Nine people were arrested for their involvement, on the grounds of public violence.

Police spokesperson Nqobile Gwala said about 20 trucks had parked on the N3. She said eight men and one woman will soon appear in court in connection with the incident.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport, however, warned it will look at the possibility of getting the court to deny the arrested people bail.

“We want to send a clear message to all those who think they can haphazardly close off national roads just because they are frustrated by fuel hikes,” spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said.

“In the process they inconvenienced the public and big companies. Such action is unacceptable and we want to show them that we will deal with all perpetrators.”

Ncalane said the truck drivers involved were blockading the N3 illegally.

Francois Stofberg, economist at Efficient Group, said the protest action was ill-advised, and said the government did not necessarily dictate petrol prices.

“These prices are dictated by global markets. We can’t change it because we don’t have local oil supplies so we’re at the mercy of the global market as we need to import.”

Stofberg said a solution could be for government to slash the percentage of petrol cost which goes toward tax, but such a decision would be unfair to poor people who benefit from that tax.

“Another problem is the weak rand/dollar exchange rate which has depreciated because of political reasons. We can do something about that if the government cleaned up its act and got market confidence back.”

Local residents took to Facebook to air their feelings on the protest.

Emma Mortimer said she supported Wednesday’s protest 100% and was grateful that the protesters were trying to do something that would be of benefit everyone if successful.

Bruce Mckeown felt disrupting ordinary people’s lives and businesses was not the answer. “It’s the ANC that needs to be punished, not the man on the street.”

Vicki Nott said: “I support the protest as long as measures have been put in place to allow people that didn’t know about it to get through like mothers with kids, elderly or sick people.” — Witness Reporter.


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