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Rocks, teargas in Pietermaritzburg protest

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Imbali residents fed up with electricity and sewerage failures

Photo of protest
Protesting groups formed at several different spots in Pietermaritzburg on Monday. They were concerned about several problems, including frequent electricity blackouts and the failure of the municipality to clean toilets. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane
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Hundreds of Pietermaritzburg residents blocked the roads in and out of Imbali township on Monday. They expressed frustration about a raft of problems including not having electricity for three months and an unrepaired burst drain that was leaking sewerage.

Protesting groups formed at several different spots. Residents used rocks, trees and burning tyres to block the roads. Cars could not use Richmond and Willowfontein roads. Schools could not function. Police used teargas to disperse the protesters. No one was arrested.

Residents from France, Nyamazane, Denmark, Buffer, Slangspruit, Marikana and Imbali Phase 1 to 6 participated.

Ward councillor Thami Sithole said calm had returned by Monday afternoon.

Protester Sandile Nkomo, from Denmark township, said that residents wanted development. “I was born here. Nothing has been done. This is not the first protest in this community. We don’t have proper sanitation. [The communal] toilets get full and are not emptied. People don’t have proper houses. We want low-cost housing in the ward,” he said.

Nkomo said they had written petitions to the municipality on numerous occasions. “We are tired. On Wednesday we went in numbers to vote. We have listened to these people. It’s time we demand that they take us seriously,” he said.

Another cause of anger is a burst drain in Denmark. Sewerage is apparently flowing past houses because of a burst drain, so that people have to jump over it to enter or exit their homes. “The whole of Denmark stinks,” said Nkomo.

“It’s been 11 years without houses and 18 years with electricity outages everyday,” said Sicelo Sokhulu.

Zinhle Zuma said the community had reported the electricity problem to the ward councillor. “He has done nothing about it. We have called him on many occasions. … Some of us are on medication which stays in the fridge. Our diabetic injection expires. Food in the fridges goes off. … The community has respected the elections. We kept quiet. Now we are making noise.“

Ward councillor Sithole said, “I’m well aware of their frustration. There were plans with Eskom to add another transformer. One transformer cannot handle the volume.”

He said he spoke to Eskom management on Monday. “On Friday they will add another transformer,” Sithole said.

He also said he is aware of the community’s other complaints. He said he had discussed them with residents and had reported the burst drain to the municipality. “But they have not fixed it.”

At the time of publication, we were still awaiting comment from the Msunduzi municipality.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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