WATCH: City under siege

2019-05-15 10:28

Protesters besieged the city on two fronts on Tuesday, as roads from Edendale were blocked off for a second day and the city centre locked down by burning barricades deep into the evening.

A riot erupted in Masukwana Street last night after Msunduzi Municipality cut off the power at a hostel in the area.

Disgruntled hostel dwellers, many armed with knobkerries, barricaded several streets in the lower CBD with burning tyres and also allegedly looted shops.

A group of about 300 protesters, also armed, gathered outside the City Hall around 8 pm demanding to see the mayor.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed that the City did cut off electricity at the hostel due to an outstanding debt.

Mafumbatha said she was aware that the hostel dwellers had gathered outside the City Hall but said Mayor Themba Njilo could only address them on Wednesday.

Njilo did not answer his phone when The Witness called him last night for comment.

As news of the riot in the CBD circulated on social networks, residents were warning each other on WhatsApp groups to stay away from certain streets.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said the public order policing unit was on scene. She said there were no reports of any injuries but they did get reports that several vehicles were damaged by the protesters. Mbele said a case of public violence was opened but no one was arrested.

The crowd had dispersed by about 9 pm.

Earlier, roads in Imbali, France and Slangspruit remained blocked on Tuesday with burning tyres, rocks and rubble that had been set alight by protesters on Monday.

Police confirmed on Tuesday that 25 protesters were arrested and charged with public violence and are due to appear in court soon.

Several roads leading into Imbali and surrounding townships were obstructed on Monday morning as residents from wards 13 and 17 complained about a shortage of electricity, water and the poor sewerage system.

The chaos continued again on Tuesday morning as the R56, Slangspruit Road and Willowton Road remained under attack. Many residents were forced to use alternative routes to get to work and school.

Colonel Mbele said that at 4 am on Tuesday, community members along the R56 Richmond Road blockaded the road with burning tyres.

Sibongile Mncwango, councillor for ward 13 — which encompasses Buffer, Slangspruit, KwaNyamazane, Denmark and France — said the situation had become very tense following the arrest of some protesters.

“Mayor Themba Njilo came to Slangspruit today [on Tuesday] to try and speak to the people but the residents were not having it.

“They demanded that the police must first release the 25 people who were arrested near France before they listen to him.

“Njilo left and said he was going to the police station,” said Mncwango.

She said the residents had threatened to cause more havoc if the protesters were not released from police custody. “I do understand their frustrations. There has been no development in this ward since the people started voting in 1994. The schools are falling apart, there is no running water in people’s homes, there are no community halls and promises for better housing were never kept.”

Mncwango urged the municipality to come up with an urgent solution before the situation gets out of hand.

Many attempts to get hold of Njilo failed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pietermaritzburg protests

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