Protesting residents used picks to damage a portion of the tarred road earlier this week in anger over the lack of water and electricity in their area.
KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Bheki Ntuli said police had arrested three suspects for public violence, who would appear in the Dundee Magistrate’s Court today.
“We have directed police to act swiftly and arrest all those who have vandalised state infrastructure because we will not allow protesters to run amok and dig up our public roads as this will result in road accidents and fatalities.”
Spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the KZN Transport Department would not repair the road and wanted those arrested to be held liable for the damages.
Ncalane said the department would take the matter to court to ensure those responsible for the damage paid for the repairs.
“It cannot be an issue of the department that they don’t have money to repair the road. Even if we have to go and take their belongings and sell them to fix the road, that will be the case.
“They must repair it. We have been upfront that people must refrain from damaging our roads whenever they demand service delivery. It cannot be the responsibility of the government to repair things that are damaged by these people,” he said.
The Pomeroy community said they did not have electricity but their more pressing concern was that they were forced to collect water from a river.
They claimed the uMzinyathi District Municipality had turned a blind eye to their issues for more than four years. One of the residents, who said he was not part of the protest but declined to be named, said the community felt ignored.
“We can live without electricity and we are used to that but (not) water. No we can’t take it anymore. The municipality is doing nothing to ensure we have clean water. Even during this Covid-19 situation, they don’t have shame as they still expect us to share the river with cattle and goats,” said the resident.
United Democratic Movement provincial secretary Boyse Gumede said they had been engaging with the municipality with their issues for years. Gumede said the municipality had failed the community and residents had approached the SA Human Rights Commission and KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in a bid to get help.
“This is clearly a violation of human rights and we can’t take it anymore. Residents are collecting water from the river. They have to wake up early before cows, goats and other animals go to the river,” he said.
Gumede, who said he was not part of the protest where the R33 was damaged, said he had tried to convince the protesters not to damage infrastructure, but the community was angry and wanted answers.
He said the community would continue with protests until Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka provided them with a plan on when they can expect running water.
“We don’t want anyone from the municipality to come and try to lie to us again. We need a proper plan detailing how and when they will start providing water. The electricity issue will follow after, but for now, we just want water,” Gumede said.
The mayor of uMzinyathi District Municipality, Petros Ngubane, urged the residents to remain calm as the issues were being addressed.
He said that the municipality together with the Msinga Local Municipality and provincial government were engaging on the matter.
Ngubane said they were also working around the clock to find an amicable solution that would fast-track the delivery of services to the people of Msinga.
“Once all plans are in place, we will give feedback to the community before the end of this month. At this juncture, we appeal for calm and patience from our citizens.
“The vandalism of infrastructure will not assist the situation, but will only reverse efforts already made to bring development to our citizens,” said Ngubane.
IFP spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison Blessed Gwala said the destruction of the road would lead to the disruption of economic activity in the area.
Gwala said, more importantly, schools that were already lagging behind with the syllabus because of Covid-19, would again be interrupted.
“We encourage peaceful protests and engagements that will bring about an effective solution. We urge the community members not to destroy the infrastructure they have already acquired,” said Gwala.
Cogta spokesperson Senzo Mzila said the department had received the memorandum from the community.
Mzila said that the department’s rapid response team had been dispatched to assist the district.
“The department is looking into this issue and the number of issues that have been raised by the community. We are currently working on a short-term plan to assist the community,” he said.
Mzila added that the department had a number for interventions such as drilling boreholes in areas in the Umzinyathi District Municipality.
He said they had also provided the district with water tankers.