N2 closed in fourth day of Garden Route protests over housing

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  • Thursday marked the fourth day of protesting on the Garden Route, with a portion of the N2 closed.
  • The protests are said to be over delays in the implementation of the Qolweni housing project.
  • Business owners and residents are concerned of the impact it will have on their livelihoods.

Thursday marked the fourth day of protesting between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, with the N2 remaining closed by evening as stones were being thrown at motorists and tyres burnt.

Rioting in this area has happened on many occasions already this year, but this particular incident has lasted the longest, leaving a trail of destruction on the road and unhappy residents and business owners since it started.

Public Order Police members were deployed after protests erupted over housing on Monday, and have remained in the area to monitor the situation.

Families in Plettenberg Bay, who send their children to school in Knysna, have been affected.

READ | Makhanda protests: Municipality says it is addressing residents' concerns

Events in both Plettenberg and Knysna have been cancelled.

Holiday bookings, desperately needed by tourism establishments that have been clobbered by Covid-19, have also been cancelled.

Property sales in the area have picked up, with people from Gauteng and Cape Town looking to change their lifestyle (since lockdown and discovering they can work remotely and improve on their quality of life).

But two estate agents told News24 if these protests carried on, it might lead to people thinking twice before buying.

Although police have advised motorists to circumvent the N2 by taking an alternative route from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay on the Airport Road, this was far from satisfactory or safe, said Plett Tourism CEO Patty Butterworth.

It's only a matter of time before we have a major accident like the bus incident a few years ago with multiple deaths. The Airport Road has no traffic control or police presence.

Butterworth, local business owners and stakeholders were concerned about the effect of the protests on the hospitality industry and their economic security.

The protests are as a result of unsuccessful meetings between the Qolweni community and Bitou Municipality over unhappiness about a housing project in the area.

Acting Mayor Sandiso Gcabayi and a delegation of municipal officials have been in meetings with residents since Monday.

READ | Truck petrol bombed in Free State protest, highway closed

According to Gcabayi, the unrest had to do with delays in the implementation of the Qolweni housing project which included the construction of around 170 houses for residents.

"This action by protesters does not only cause malicious damage to properties, but it also affects the town's economy and image. It also threatens the lives of innocent people."

The municipality said Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers would visit the area on Friday to engage with the Bitou council and Qolweni leaders on the issue.

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