By Daily News Reporters
Durban - Violent protesters caused traffic chaos in north Durban on Monday morning, closing roads, burning vehicles and stoning police.
There was also a report of a shooting near Reservoir Hills, where an official from the mayor’s office was addressing a crowd.
Roads to Newlands and Newlands East, the Sea Cow Lake industrial area, Mountbatten Drive and the M19 between Westville and the Quarry Road bridge were closed and many commuters arrived at work only after 10am on Monday.
The city said early on Monday that Dumisani Makhaye Road, in KwaMashu, Chris Hani (North Coast) Road from the N2 to the Connaught Bridge and Nandi Drive were not accessible.
“Protesters have blockaded roads with rocks and burning tyres. Metro police and law enforcement officials are at the scene. We urge motorists to be cautious this morning.”
— Nosipho S Mngoma (@Mzoeloe) June 6, 2016
Greenwood park police said the entrance to Newlands East from Queen Nandi Drive had been blocked off by protesters.
According to police, at the M19 freeway near Reservoir Hills, the occupants of a green Honda Ballade fired shots at a group of protesters who were listening to Sipho Mthethwa, an official from the mayor’s office speak.
Police are said to have traced the number plates which turned out to be false.
A case of attempted murder was opened at the Sydenham police station.
Thousands of workers, including nurses and school children, were delayed as municipal buses leaving KwaMashu could not wade through the traffic.
A truck which protesters had used to block Sea Cow Lake Road was burned as well as 17 scrapped cars at a scrapyard in the area.
This was in addition to a motorist’s BMW burned at the intersection with Chris Hani Road.
A police source said some police stations in north Durban sent all their staff to the scene, including detectives, because law-enforcement officers struggled to contain the protests.
According to reports on social media, several policemen were injured when protesters threw rocks at them in Queen Nandi Drive. However this could not be confirmed at the time of publication.
The protests appear to be linked to dissatisfaction with councillors nominated by the ANC for the August local government elections.
After talking to police mid-morning, community leaders tried to disperse the crowds, saying the regional ANC leadership, whom they were demanding to see could not get to them because of road closures caused by protests.
But the protesters would hear none of it, vowing to March to ANC headquarters in Durban or continue with their stand-off with police at Chris Hani Road.
Ethekwini ANC regional secretary, Bheki Ntuli, said the party’s councillor candidates selection process had been transparent and violence was being fuelled by those who were unsuccessful in the nominations process.
“We are happy that the selected candidates were those wanted by the communities, and that those disputing this are just a disruptive minority. We are confident that the outcome of the elections will prove this,” Ntuli said.
Earlier about 500 residents, believed to be from a nearby informal settlement blocked Chris Hani Road, cordoning it off with a roll of till slip paper. They also set refuse and other debris alight in the area.
Protesters and workers who had been prevented from getting to work threw rocks and other missiles at each other.
Protesters told the Daily News they wanted the ANC leadership in the area to explain to them how a candidate they did not elect had been nominated for councillor in the ward.
They said they had elected two different candidates to stand for their ward in the August election.
In Reservoir Hills, the Dr AD Lazarus School was going ahead with certain examination papers but the main concern was an afternoon Grade 12 paper that may be postponed.
The entrance to and from Reservoir Hills from Mountbatten Drive had been closed. Residents had to drive through Westville to get into Durban central.
In Sea Cow Lake at the Dr Macken Maistry Primary School, several teachers were late because they were caught in traffic. Principal Pompey Sukool said the turn-out at the school was low and he would have to reschedule exams.
Sukool said it normally took him 10 minutes to get to school but today he spent more than an hour in traffic on the N2.
“I joined the N2 from North Coast Road. What was frightening was the amount of boulders and rocks strewn on the freeway near overhead bridges.
“I am fortunate not to have been attacked,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Education Department spokesman Muzi Mhlambi said school mid-term examinations in most of the schools in the protest areas would be affected.
On Monday morning he had not received any reports from schools but was aware of the protests.
There were also long delays for residents of Greenwood Park and Effingham.
Some Newlands residents were late for work, with some having to travel to central and north Durban via uMhlanga.
In KwaMashu, E section, resident Nqobile Dube was late for her 7am shift.
“I only discovered that there was something going on when I couldn’t get a taxi to take me to work,” she said.
She said she got to work an hour-and-a-half late.
Taxi associations from the northern parts of Durban, including KwaMashu and Ntuzuma said they were greatly affected by the protest.
Ntuzuma Taxi Association chairman, Velaphi Gumede, said a large part of the greater north was affected.
“The thing is you can come and collect commuters, but you end up going round and round trying to navigate the massive traffic. Commuters end up being late and our business is taking quite a knock,” said Gumede.
He said although some roads had been cleared for now, the protests would start all over again in the afternoon and they would have difficulty taking commuters back home .
The eThekwini municipality appealed for calm. It said on its Facebook page: “In the run up to the local government elections, Mayor James Nxumalo acknowledges that people are free to exercise their constitutional rights by voicing their concerns; however residents should do so in a peaceful manner without damaging property, injuring law-abiding citizens or blockading roads, thus preventing others from going to school and work.”
The city said investigations had found the protest was of a political nature, and not service delivery related.
“Metro Police members, Disaster Management and Operation Sukuma Sakhe/ Rapid Response officials were dispatched to the affected areas and are on the ground to collect information from protesting residents. City law enforcement is also on site to reroute traffic and to ensure the safety of motorists and residents,” it said.