Cape Town 31-03-04 Protestors burnt tyres in Elsies river protesting against a mans house who was taken down . They threw rocks at police who retaliated by shooting rubber bulletts , tear gas , stun grenades and a water canon was used to disperse the crowd Pic BRENTON geach

Durban – Water shortages have sparked riots in the far northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Jozini.

Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said that violene erupted when residents from the Machibini community staged a protest, resulting in the arrest of 23 people. They face charges of public violence.

He said the arrested residents were expected to appear in court on Thursday.

Zwane said that local police as well as officers from the police’s Public Order Policing unit and a tactical response team had been deployed to the area.

It is understood that the riots broke out on Tuesday and carried on through the night into Wednesday morning.

The Zululand Observer newspaper reported that residents are demanding water and opposing the installation of water meters – when the water arrives. They are also demanding to be employed at a local mall, which according to the report, does not employ locals.

Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, who hails from the area urged the province’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, to meet with residence as soon as possible to diffuse the situation.

“It is shocking that the MEC has decided to meet with the residents next week Tuesday while Jozini is burning. What damage the MEC want to see from now till next week?” asked Madlopha-Mthethwa, in a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon.

“If the MEC is competent in her duties and cares about peoples’ grievances she must change her schedule and put the needs of the people first.

“It is impossible even for me to go home because the situation is so tense. I reside here in Jozini but now I find it difficult to sleep at home because there is no way to go home,” she said.

Madlopha-Mthethwa said poor performance of the Jozini Local Municipality and uMkhanyakude District Municipality sparked the riots.

She, however, said that while she understood the frustration of residents, she urged them to refrain from violence and damaging property.

Comment was not immediately available from the municipality or Cogta.

Northern KwaZulu-Natal has been severely affected by a drought that has seen rivers, boreholes and dams dry up.

African News Agency