Shipping containers and a vehicle belonging to foreign nationals were burned to the ground by a mob accusing business owners of being drug dealers in Richards Bay. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng / ANA

Durban - The City of uMhlathuze is calm and peaceful with businesses back in full swing on Friday after an unrest crippled operations in the town earlier this week.

From Monday, entrance and exit routes to the coastal town were closed when residents took to the streets complaining about widespread crime in the Central Business District. Fingers were pointed at drug addicts. 

At least 30 people have been arrested following the three day protest in Richards Bay.  

It is alleged that the protests stemmed from two murders, one of a bus driver and the other a taxi driver, at the hands of suspected whoonga addicts.

According to those who spoke to The Mercury on the basis of anonymity, taxi drivers then targeted a group of people they believed were supplying drugs to vagrants in the Richards Bay CBD.

Mdu Ncalane spokesperson for the uMhlathuze municipality said public Transport especially minibus taxis and buses are back in operation from Thursday.  

"Businesses in the CBD opened on time with workers able to move to and from work without any roads being blockaded. Malls, shopping centres and restaurants are operating with full staff compliment,"Ncalane said.

City of uMhlathuze Mayor Councillor Mduduzi Mhlongo, has committed to coordinating all relevant stakeholders and concerned parties such as the Public Transport Associations, South African Police Services, Home Affairs, the Zululand Business Chamber and engage with Provincial and National security cluster, if necessary, to get into the root cause of the community unrest.

“The constitution of the country gives certain responsibilities to national government and other responsibilities to the provincial government sphere as well as specific responsibilities to the local government sphere such as the basic service delivery such as water, sanitation, refuse removal, economic development, etc,"Mhlongo explained. 

He said the issue of fighting crime is a sole responsibility of the SAPS and its wings.

"Cities are given the Traffic sections by the provincial government. Ours as the City of uMhlathuze is to coordinate the communication between our citizens and the SAPS. If there is unhappiness with that, then we need to device other strategies to fight crimes that are terrorising our citizens, working with upper structures,” Mhlongo says.

He said they had came to amicable short term solutions with the concerned stakeholders and already planning to get back to round table to discuss long term arrest of any criminal activities. 

Mhlongo said they plan to intensify bylaw enforcement activities especially in buildings within the city that are alleged to have become drugs den.

"If needs be, the City will shut them down completely,” Mhlongo Adds.

Mhlongo reassured the business sector, investors and citizens that the city will act swiftly to avert anything that will tamper with the safety of and cripple the business operation that has a ripple effect to the economy of the City.

“We are working hard to ensure that the City’s economy is growing in leaps and bounds, having the busiest and deepest port that carries heavy bulk import and export cargo that injects billions of Rands in our economy cannot be tempered with. Our Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) is very active in galvanising foreign direct investments to our shores and many other mining and production conglomerates operating in our city with huge employment intakes, is critical to us and to our citizens and needs to be up and running at all times,” Mhlongo emphasises.

The City of uMhlathuze is the third GDP contributor in KwaZulu-Natal and has been recently hailed as number 5 in the country, only one in KwaZulu-Natal by the National Treasury’s State of Local Government Finances and Financial Management Report as financially healthy. UMhlathuze incorporated Richards Bay, eMpangeni towns and large townships such as eSikhaleni, Meerensee, eNseleni, Mzingazi and traditional areas such as Ntabanana, etc.

Reacting to the unrest on Facebook Mondli Mavundla said, "Who gave rights to murder our innocent citizens this will never end until stakeholders and police officials pull up their socks and do what they get paid for cause this our country,this is our tax and we grew up here and we have no place to hide,community is fed up with all these nonsense...Richards bay suppose to be a clean and quiet city like early 90's."

Zoleka Khumalo said,"So instead of dealing with the perpetrators. They decide to burn tyres and disrupt the whole town."

Ngcebo Mhlongo said,"Sometimes I wonder if our mayor and councillors live in the same uMhlathuze municipality as us. I grew up here. I have seen most of the major and minor developments in both Richards Bay and Empangeni unfolding. In the past 2 years I have seen rapid deterioration in our municipality areas. Crime has gone up and the level of cleanliness has gone down exponentially. Our parking lots are full of broken bottles and have turned into shebeens and reek of urine. Usually when officials allow a town to deteriorate like this then the drug lords and junkies take over. You just have to go to Durban to see this."

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