Rubber bullets disperse protesters in Pietermaritzburg

Yet another community dissatisfied with councillor

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Photo of protesters
Protesters in ward 17, Pietermaritzburg. Photo: Ntombi Mbomvu

A month ago GroundUp reported on unhappy residents in Imbali, Ward 17, Pietermaritzburg. Yesterday, police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd that was protesting near the community hall in Imbali Unit 13.

Five of the injured residents were taken to Imbalenhle Clinic in Imbali Unit 3 and Impilonhle Clinic in Imbali Unit BB.

Photo of a woman showing two wounds
Phindile Ndlela shows where she was hit twice by rubber bullets. Photo: Ntombi Mbomvu

Phindile Ndlela was hit twice on her back by rubber bullets while protesting.

“How can you shoot people who are peacefully protesting for their rights? We are not violent and we are not carrying any weapons. They just shot us for nothing. Others were forced to run into people’s houses in the area during the shooting. We are just community members who are fighting for their rights, nothing more,” said Ndlela.

Residents say they are unhappy with ward councillor Philisiwe Sithole. Residents complain they have been without water for months; that sanitation and housing has not been completed. The community has had to depend on a water truck.

Community members say they have made numerous attempts to meet with the regional structures of the ANC.

“We want them to tell us who is to be accountable for the development in the ward,” said Khetha Mlaba, one of the community and an ANC member.

“The last time we had a branch general meeting or saw our ward councillor was in January. We don’t know what is happening or where to send our concerns. Who is accountable or responsible for the ward if the ward councillor doesn’t meet with the people?

“The region must come and speak to us. We have written letters, sent emails and we have tried meeting them personally, but we have failed. We have made phone calls, but none of them is concerned enough to come and discuss these matters with us. We are fully members of the ANC with membership cards. The important thing is to develop the ward and for that we won’t stop fighting for our rights,” said Mlaba.

According to the provincial spokesperson of the ANC, matters concerning elected candidates cannot be discussed before the final decision by the organisation. The region will avail itself to discuss those matters once all the election procedures have been finalised.

“It starts with the concerns of poor service delivery then it leads up to the dissatisfaction of the elected candidates for the local government elections. For now the community is protesting under suspicions before the final decision of the organisation about the elected members. That cannot be dealt with at the time until the final decision is made about the candidates. We urge the community to deal with unhappiness in a polite manner. They must not vandalise property or disturb children in schools when they are protesting. They must not override their responsibility of building a future for the nation,” said Ntuli.

Photo of an arm with a wound
Another shot resident, Xoli Ngwenya, shows the wound. Photo: Ntombi Mbomvu

During the protest, police cars were in and out of Imbali Unit 13 where the protesters were. As they marched to the ward councillor’s office, police started shooting.

Some of the residents were forced by the police to delete pictures and videos they took during the shooting.

Major Shooz Magudulela said, “A case of public violence was opened at Plessislaer Police Station and five suspects were arrested. Public Order Police and Plessislaer police dispersed the unruly crowd.”

Sithole maintains that the protest is politically driven by certain individuals.

“It’s a blatant lie that I don’t attend meetings,” she said. “As we speak, I will be having a meeting on Sunday where I will be informing people about the water issue and the housing project. People in the ward know that some of the areas are experiencing a problem with water because of the drought. They are aware of that. It’s their own political agenda with the elected candidates who will be contesting on the local government elections. It has nothing to do with service delivery.”

GroundUp has covered a number of community protests in the past 30 days that continue to break out in Pietermaritzburg (see stories on ward 12, ward 17, ward 18,  and ward 29, ) as residents try to jettison candidates and ward councillors before the looming local elections.

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TOPICS:  Local Elections 2016 Water

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