ISithebe protest costs workers dearly
Durban - The torching of factories and rioting that has shut down business in iSithebe was depriving as many as 20 000 people of their livelihood and affecting many thousands more, the government said on Tuesday, as it appealed to the community to “exercise restraint”.
MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu, condemned the burning of property and vehicles which continued even as he conducted a site inspection in iSithebe on Tuesday.
The mayhem has reached such a pitch in the North Coast town that the Health Department confirmed on Tuesday that the KwaSithebe Clinic had to be closed and all ambulances removed, amid fears for the safety of lives and property.
Since Sunday, factories and trucks in the industrial estate housing factories owned by Ithala Development Finance Corporation, have been torched and about 18 others stoned by people disgruntled with the appointment of an induna and the nomination of a councillor candidate.
Mabuyakhulu said the incidents were “completely unacceptable”.
“We understand that our people have issues they are concerned about. Those issues don’t necessarily have a direct bearing on what is taking place in the industrial estate.
“Therefore we are urging our communities that whatever their issues may be, they should not vent their anger and frustration in an economic hub such as this.”
Mabuyakhulu was speaking after visiting a furniture factory which had been gutted by fire.
In another area, several trucks and trailers stood burned on the roadside while another truck was set alight while Mabuyakhulu was in the area.
A petrol bomb was also thrown into a recycling plant, raising another plume of thick black smoke in the small town near Mandeni.
Mabuyakhulu said an office was broken into and looted of computers, chairs and other equipment. The estate employed about 20 000 people and without their income because of business shutdowns, up to 100 000 people would be affected. He said this would make life difficult for this rural community.
The portfolio manager for Ithala iSithebe Industrial Estate, Kevin Palmer, told the Daily News earlier this week that they were yet to assess the full extent of the damage. He said businesses had to close because of the riots.
“Our call to each and every citizen of this area is that the provincial and local leadership is intervening in dealing with the issues which are the source of the anger and frustration and we are urging them to exercise restraint and not damage any more factories.”
Mayor of the Mandeni Municipality, Sphesihle Zulu, said their foremost concern was for people’s safety. They had already met the committee leading the protest as well as the councillors.
Another meeting was held earlier involving the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs after it emerged that one of the issues fuelling the riot was the removal and replacement of an induna by an inkosi.
Mabuyakhulu said the provincial government and the traditional council were handling the matter. Zulu said they had also reached out to the ANC in the province to assist because protesters had expressed dissatisfaction at the nomination of councillor candidates.
A delegation from the ANC Alliance was expected to visit the area this morning to meet residents and others in an effort to end the protests.
Zulu hoped that by the conclusion of the meetings, they would be able to tell people when they could go back to work and school.
He said there was little the municipality could do about the processes, but “we have a responsibility to the community not to be disturbed by this and for the people of Mandeni to continue to work and be safe.”
Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said since Monday night, the ill and injured as well as staff could not reach or leave the clinic.
“There are reports that the rioters were threatening to burn down the clinic. This is totally outrageous.
“Whatever the protesters are complaining about is bound to lose legitimacy if this wanton behaviour of putting patients’ lives at risk continues,” said Dhlomo.
On Monday, public order police from Empangeni, Ulundi and Newcastle had to be deployed to assist while more than 100 people were arrested for public violence.
Police spokesman, Major Thulani Zwane, said they appeared in the Eshowe Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday and were remanded in custody until their next appearance on Tuesday.
MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu visits iSithebe factories burned during protests.
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