What sparked violent Reservoir Hills protests
Durban – HUNDREDS of angry residents from the Quarry Road informal settlement in Reservoir Hills went on the rampage yesterday, stoning and torching vehicles, and looting businesses.
More than 600 community members blockaded the M19 and Quarry Road with burning tyres, from 5am, demanding electricity, housing and sanitation.
Community leader Chester Lakini vowed that they would not stop protesting until their demands were met.
“We were promised proper housing after the floods and, to date, nothing has happened. We will not be fooled any more.
“We don’t want to talk to the councillor, the mayor must address us and give us a date of when they are moving us to new houses with proper electricity,” he said.
It is believed the protests were sparked after the eThekwini Municipality allegedly disconnected illegal electricity connections last week.
KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said 10 suspects, aged between 18 and 40, were arrested for public violence and were expected to appear in court soon.
She said a police vehicle, privately owned vehicles and a bus were damaged by the unruly protesters.
Durban metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said some law enforcement officers had been injured by the protesters.
He said the protesters stormed a mall in Reservoir Hills and also looted a butchery and liquor shop.
Reservoir Hills Ratepayers’ Association chairperson Ish Prahladh called on the municipality to urgently intervene in the ongoing violent protests in the area.
He said residents could not get out of their homes to go to work because the roads were blockaded.
“This is an injustice to the community, which pays very high rates to live in the area. It is also unfair that they attacked innocent residents,” he said.
He they would be writing to the mayor seeking an urgent response to end the protests.
“It’s not our fault that these communities do not have service delivery. We pay our rates and taxes. We can’t be held hostage in our own homes,” said Prahladh.
UKZN School of Social Sciences professor Sagie Narsiah said it was unacceptable that after so many years of democracy, residents had to protest to be heard.
“It is clear that local authorities and government are simply not up to the task for a whole range of issues. This includes corruption, basic inefficiency in their administrations, and a lack of accountability by councillors,” he said.
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the City subscribed to an open-door policy and were on record as saying that if communities had grievances, they must use dialogue rather than violence.
He said the community went on the rampage because the City had disconnected illegal electricity connections.
Mayisela said the City was losing millions of rand daily due to illegal connections.
“This is despite tremendous strides that we have made in ensuring that the City meets the needs of the poorest of the poor,” he said.
“The City has, on numerous occasions, engaged this community to consider moving to other areas. They refused and demanded that the City build them houses in the area where the shacks are, which is impossible and would put lives at risk.”
He said the shacks were built along the banks of a river and bore the brunt of flooding during the rainy season.
“It is very difficult for the City to roll out infrastructure in the form of water and electricity because of violence,” he said, adding it was an uphill battle for the City to even meet with the community, because they stoned vehicles that come anywhere near them. The municipality also raised concerns about the looting of the liquor store and butchery, and urged law enforcement agencies to arrest all those who were responsible.
“We are appealing to all our residents to be patient and follow the correct channels to access basic services and air their grievances,” he said.
Palesa Phili, the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, said they were concerned that hundreds of motorists had been forced to find alternative routes to work yesterday.
She said this action threatened the safety of motorists and other road users on the city’s roads.
She added it also caused traffic congestion and road closures, ultimately affecting business operations across the city.
“Our city cannot afford protest action that will result in further loss of business productivity and negatively affect the investment and tourism profile of the city.
“Prolonged periods of protest will translate to huge losses for our economy,” she said.
“It is also important that law enforcement takes immediate action to reduce the risk of damage to public and private property, as well as safeguarding the lives of road users and other citizens.”