‘We’ll arrest protest culprits’

2019-05-14 14:09
Msunduzi fire fighters extinguishing a fire along Skhumbuzo Ngwenya Road near Slangspruit.

Msunduzi fire fighters extinguishing a fire along Skhumbuzo Ngwenya Road near Slangspruit. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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Police have warned that they will arrest those who are guilty of orchestrating violent protests if any evidence of this emerges.

On Monday morning, several roads in Imbali, France and Slangspruit were blocked with burning tyres, rocks and rubble.

Thick acrid smoke could be seen from a distance hanging over the area.

Police had to use rubber bullets to disperse small crowds of protesters who had blocked Willowfountain Road, the R56 and Skhumbuzo Ngwenya Road between 4 am and late afternoon on Monday.

The protests came after residents from wards 13 and 17 held separate meetings at the weekend.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said no arrests have been made in connection with the protests. A case of public violence was opened at Alexandra police station.

“If it’s found that there are people involved in terms of influencing other people, those people will be arrested. All those who will be found to be breaking the law will be prosecuted,” Mbele said.

The areas were shut down by disgruntled residents, who ran through the streets lighting fires and barricading the main entrances and exits in a service delivery protest.

The angry residents were carrying makeshift weapons, from broken bottles and stones to rudimentary axes. They scattered when police vehicles sporadically rumbled down the roads, and regrouped when the coast was clear.

There was only one consensus: nobody was going to be allowed to leave the areas to go to work.

The residents had varied reasons for protesting, ranging from unhappiness with the shortage of electricity, water, and the sewerage system.

On Willowfountain Road, the protesters from Imbali Phase 4 said they had been without electricity for weeks, stating that the overloaded electricity grid was the main concern.

Ras Nathi, one of the residents, said there were frequent power failures in the area and sometimes they didn’t have electricity for up to four days.

Nathi said they had met with ward 17 councillor Thamsanqa Sithole who told them that he was aware of the power problems but could not help.

“He said he did not have an answer. When we asked him how long this was going to take before they got the problem fixed, the councillor said he did not know,” said Nathi.

Many attempts to get hold of Sithole on Monday failed.

Another resident said she had to replace many appliances at her house that were “fried” when the power kept going on and off.

A Slangspruit resident, who declined to be named, said the main issue was the sewerage system.

“With every new elected ward councillor our first discussion is the toilet issue. The matter is still the same. It is getting worse,” she said.

The resident said her six-year-old granddaughter almost fell down the toilet. “The toilets are shaky. Children no longer use these toilets. When you get inside, they move. You have to monitor children.”

While nobody was injured during the protests, in Slangspruit, a 12-year-old boy was taken to hospital after he was allegedly exposed to teargas.

Sandile Nkomo, who was part of the Slangspruit protest, said the ward 13’s protest was separate. He said their protest included residents from Buffer, Slangspruit, Denmark, KwaNyamazane and France. “We want the municipality to see how angry we are. We went to the polls in numbers last week but don’t get service delivery.

“We don’t have sewage lines and most of the toilets in areas like Denmark are blocked. It’s unfair for people to be expected to live under these conditions.”

Nkomo said they also demanded an explanation from the municipality on why the housing units they were promised five years ago had not been delivered. “We want Themba Njilo and the ANC leadership in the region to come here and explain why all these promises have not been fulfilled yet.

“We have written numerous letters, but nothing has changed,” said one of the protesters.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said Mayor Njilo and senior municipal managers met with the protesters on Monday. Issues emanating from the protests would be attended to, she added.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest action

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