File picture: Supplied
Durban - The town of Underberg is on edge following a month of community protests that have damaged infrastructure and threatens to cripple its tourism industry.

There are concerns that the strike might intensify after a meeting between Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma municipality’s leadership and the community scheduled for yesterday failed to materialise.

The strike is over water shortages, housing and road infrastructure in Bulwer and Underberg in the southern Drakensberg. Community members have blockaded roads heading towards Underberg, including the iconic Sani Pass route. The protests also affected pupils as some were unable to get to school for more than a week.

Mayor Patricia Mncwabe was expected to meet the community yesterday after a previous meeting was aborted and she was forced to flee.

A community member, who asked not to be named, said the unrest was likely to intensify.

“Today (yesterday) the mayor was supposed to meet with the community, that did not happen.

“I fear what will happen. The community is quite angry. The previous meeting ended badly and mayor was forced to flee,” he said.

“We drink polluted water that we share with animals despite claims that we have tap water. At times we cannot even drink that water because it is polluted with human waste.

“There is a shortage of houses as people have been on the waiting list for years, and there are no roads,” he said.

A business woman running a guest lodge in Underberg said she was concerned.

“It has been quite bad and tourism is taking a knock. There have been instances where guests did not arrive at all. People come here because they want the peace of country living and do not want the stress of going through protests to get here,” she said.

DA councillor Victor Phoswa said the municipality was struggling to contain the protests.

“The current state of the municipality is compromising economic development, disrupting the tourism sector and contributes to the growing unemployment rate,” Phoswa said.

Municipal spokesperson Skhumbuzo Sethuntsha said yesterday’s meeting had been cancelled because the council leaders did not want a repeat of the last meeting with the community.

“The leaders felt they needed to meet all the relevant departments first, and have answers before they meet the community,” he said.

The Mercury