Protest becomes a riot

POLICE responded to a burning barricade protest at the Thornhill four-way intersection on the R67 last Thursday afternoon (June 28), firing rubber bullets at a crowd of protestors after a police van was stoned.

A handful of police in riot gear pushed about 50 stone-throwing protestors away from the R67 to allow the Ndlambe fire department to douse the burning tyres and branches and remove the debris from the R67, including rocks smashed bottles.

At the Wharf Street intersection with the R67, police blocked the road for traffic safety with the assistance of MultiSecurity and Crash Towing.

Meanwhile protestors lit another fiery barricade in Joe Slovo Road near Kuyasa Combined School. Police at the scene said the protest seemed to be about the Port Alfred dump.

The R67 was opened to traffic again after about an hour, but later that evening an alert was sent out that it was again blocked by burning barricades.

Earlier that afternoon, TotT also received a call that access roads to the dump within Nemato had also been blocked with rocks, concrete and burning debris. On Friday afternoon, TotT saw that the debris was still partially blocking some roads.

Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender said the protestors had initially gathered in Thambo Street last Thursday, expressing frustration that a deadline given to the municipality with regards to jobs and problems in their ward had passed with no results.

“Police responded and found that the group had moved to the municipal dumpsite next to Nemato. There the group waited to be addressed by the mayor and became unhappy when they did not receive the answers they wanted,” Govender said. “The group then started blocking the road and also burnt the guard house at the dumpsite. A case of arson was opened. No suspects identified as yet.”

Govender said when the group moved to the R67 and blocked it with burning tyres and branches, the vehicles of passing motorists were also stoned.

“A case of damage to infrastructure and hindering the flow of traffic was opened,” she said. “No arrests as yet as specific persons could not as yet be identified.”

Govender said on Friday a small group of mostly women blocked the Thambo street intersection in Nemato once again. A municipal councillor showed up and asked residents to give the municipality until July 15 to provide answers regarding unemployment.

Municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said the community had raised concerns about unemployment, the hazardous tip, crime in the area, electricity, rubbish removal, the unavailability of the councillor, an inaccessible road, and non-functional ward committees.

He said the municipal manager and other officials had first addressed community members on June 7.

“The Disemba Solwandle Road has been gravelled, which was part of their grievances,” Mbolekwa said. “The Speaker has also explained to them how the ward committees are elected and their functions and the term of office.

“The issue of electricity has also been attended to – the electricity fittings have been ordered and will be installed once they are available,” Mbolekwa continued.

“With regard to employment the director of corporate services explained to them how people are employed in the municipality and the use of the database.”

He said the municipality was currently involved in a programme for the dumpsite.

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