Durban - Service delivery protests erupted at several points around eThekwini on Tuesday, causing massive traffic disruptions – including the closure of the M4 between Ballito and eMdloti.
At least one high school had to abandon its exams.
Protests in Mariannhill, west of Durban and at oThongathi in the north began early this morning after hundreds of rampaging informal dwellers took to the streets demanding better service.
In the north police closed the M4 after more than 200 members of the Thuthukani informal settlement near Seatides barricaded the road with rocks and burning tyres, said police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker.
Traffic was being diverted to the N2, causing massive delays as thousands of commuters and pupils tried to make their way to work and school in peak hour traffic.
Metro police acting spokesman, Superintendent Sibonelo Mchunu, said in Dassenhoek, near Mariannhill, about 200 people had gathered.
“We are still assessing what their issues are and what they want done,” he said.
Police had no record of that incident.
A memorandum from the residents of the oThongathi informal settlement handed to city officials this morning demanded they be relocated or allocated houses in the nearby Waterloo area.
After it was read out, the memorandum was accepted by Skhumbuzo Ndaba from the mayor’s office.
He said he would meet the residents’ committee to discuss the demands and return to give feedback to residents.
They demanded a response from city officials within 14 days, warning that their protests would continue until their demands were met.
Community leader, Fana Khanyile, told officials from the city that their pleas for housing had fallen on deaf ears.
He claimed that before the elections in May they were promised 450 houses on Hammonds Farm, near oThongathi.
“Some of us have been living here for 34 years. How do we make ourselves heard? We talk to people all the time then they go back and say they don’t know this informal settlement,” he said.
Executive member of the Seatides Ratepayers’ Association, Indran Pillay, said they were in support of the protest and demands of their neighbours.
“Thuthukani is as old as the suburb and we will work together with them to demand housing,” Pillay said.
Thuthukani had been overlooked for relocation to government housing over Shayamoya informal settlement in La Mercy and the Ocean Drive-Inn informal settlement near Crawford College.
The association had also written to eThekwini mayor, James Nxumalo, and deputy Logie Naidoo calling for, among other things, the removal of Thuthukani residents to safer houses.
“The settlement is on a very unstable hill, you cannot drive here when it rains because the soil just comes down.”
Pillay said their demand to see the roll-out plan for housing for the informal dwellers had also fallen on deaf ears.
This, Ndaba said, he would look into. “I will check with the various departments, especially with housing, to see what the plan for this place is.”
An oThongathi father and policeman, who did not want to be named, said children were prevented from going to school.
Because of the protest, the road leading to Seatides Secondary in Dolphin Avenue was closed by police.
For those who had arrived at Seatides Secondary School before the protest, frantic parents, fearing an escalation of violence, gathered nearby, pleading with police to give them access to their children.
Principal of Seatides Secondary, Anandraj Bhola, said about 50 pupils had gone home.
He said the planned internal examinations had to be postponed and would be rescheduled because of the protests.
“But school is carrying on as normal. About 50 parents came and took their kids home because they feared the protesters may come to the school. We could not prevent them from doing that as we cannot guarantee the safety of the children. But everything is running normal otherwise,” he said.
Selish Mahabir, 23, a Unisa law student, had to use a dirt road, through the sugar cane fields in oThongathi, to get to his exam centre this morning.
Service delivery protesters had blocked the access road from his Desainagar home to oThongathi.
He arrived 30 minutes late for his exam and was not given an extension of time.
Andre Loots, principal at the Crawford North Coast College, said a few students arrived late for their mid-year examinations this morning because of the protests, but said the examinations were going ahead as scheduled.
He said parents had been advised to use the N2.