Protesters on a rampage Residents vent anger on social media

2016-05-18 12:47
Angry protesters trashed the small town of Kokstad by blocking roads with boulders, burning tyres and rubbish. Protesters also torched buildings and damaged shops.

Angry protesters trashed the small town of Kokstad by blocking roads with boulders, burning tyres and rubbish. Protesters also torched buildings and damaged shops. (Facebook)

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Pietermaritzburg - Two days of service delivery protests have left Kokstad’s CBD looking like a war zone.

On Tuesday police had arrested 101 protesters as the violence, which had erupted on Monday afternoon, flared up again during the early hours of the ­morning.

Residents angry over many issues, ­including poor service delivery, went on a rampage, trashing streets and ­vandalising property.

Townships Shayamoya, Horseshoe and Bhongweni were also affected by the protests.

Police as far as Port Shepstone were deployed to the area as local police ­struggled to deal with the protesters who had split into groups.

Police foiled attempts to burn down a local school and a house belonging to deputy mayor Bheki Mtolo.

Many pupils were unable to go to school.

The chaos started on Monday after residents had staged a service delivery march in which they accused Mayor ­Nosisa Jojozi and her deputy, Mtolo, of misusing public funds, and calling for them to step down.

Mtolo denied that he and Jojozi have misused any public funds.

“I came here in 2011 and the ­municipality had a bank balance of R3,4 million but now the municipal bank balance is more than R100 million. ­People of Kokstad should appreciate what we have done for them. We have built tar roads and this protest is caused by individuals who want to push their agendas,” said Mtolo.

The residents had been expecting a representative from the provincial ­Department of Co-operative ­Governance and Traditional Affairs to receive their memorandum.

The protesters stormed the municipal offices, burning tyres and ordering staff and management out of their offices ­after receiving a message that the ­representative was not coming.

However, the department’s ­spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, denied that the representative did not show up. He said the department had deployed a team of senior officials to receive the memorandum but upon arrival two Cogta officials were chased away as ­protesters allegedly demanded someone from the Office of the Presidency.

The municipality’s spokesperson, ­Sabelo Ncwane, said their offices were closed again yesterday.

“Fearing for the safety of the staff, the municipality was forced to close the ­offices after seeing some of the ­protesters approaching the municipal offices,” he said.

Ncwane said it was not true that the municipality had failed to deliver ­services.

Kokstad Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Margi Flemming said businesses had been closed since ­Monday.

Kokstad is the province’s fastest ­growing town.

“There is a lot of violence in the area. At some businesses, the protesters ­damaged windows,” she said.

A businessman, who asked not to be named, said he was in his shop on ­Monday afternoon when the angry crowd went on the rampage.

“They got into a frenzy. First there were about 15 to 20 men running down the street with knobkerries, and then it was like a swarm of bees followed them. The crowd were smashing windows as they ran, toppling precast concrete bins into the road and setting fire to the ­rubbish that spilt out.”

The businessman said his security guard closed the doors and all the staff ran to the back of the shop to seek refuge.

“It was scary. They were throwing stones and rocks. They were banging on the windows of all the shops. They smashed two of our windows and three at the shop next door. They also toppled a wall at the entrance to the town and used the rubble to block the road.”

The man said on Monday night gunshots and loud shouting were heard coming from the nearby township.

In a statement, Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube condemned the violence and called for law enforcement agencies to bring to book “the perpetrators”.

“Our hard-won democracy offers ­individuals ample opportunity to express their views. But doing so while infringing on the rights of others and through violence cannot be tolerated.

“Actions such as those witnessed in Kokstad cannot and will not be tolerated by a democratically elected government. Municipalities are at the forefront of ­service delivery to communities and as such they need to be able to function without hindrance,” she said.

Regional ANC secretary Sindi Msomi said she did not understand how ­violence would unseat the mayor and the deputy mayor.

“If they want the mayor out, they must vote them out in elections. That is how democracy works. I do not ­understand why they are damaging the property.

“The problem with some of these people is that they do not want to accept the democratic processes,” she said.

DA constituency head Francois ­Rodgers said it was not right that businesses had to close for two days in these “tough” economic times.

“But the solution is in the ballot paper. On August 3 people should vote for the councillor that they trust,” he said.

KOKSTAD residents took to social networks to vent their anger about the violent protest.

Veronique Tatchell questioned why the poor service delivery ­protests forced people who had “absolutely nothing to the with the municipality to stop working, to leave their place of business and close up shop?”.

“What is burning tyres and ­making the whole town filthy going to achieve?? Why must you put the lives of innocent people in ­danger??? How does any of it make sense??” said Tatchell.

Marilise van der Merwe said she had never thought “total” chaos would break out in Kokstad.

“I don’t see what the point of ­violence and destruction is. Do they honestly think this is going to get us better service delivery and let whoever it is that they want to step down, step down?

“I don’t think so! Violence is not the answer to everything, I wish they would just understand that,” she said.

Angela Fourie described the ­situation as terrible.

“Never could I imagine my childhood home town becoming a space for this kind of anger and chaos.”

Bevan Gartrell said the situation had gotten out of hand.

“Of course they started stoning passing cars and smashing ­windows!! One hardware store’s gate wasn’t closed properly and they got hold of the creosote pole stocks and set them alight!!

“They were then running around with burning poles!!” he said.

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