Residents are ‘prisoners’ in Copesville

Police remove rubble and debris from the road after service delivery protests erupted in Copesville, in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Shan Pillay

Police remove rubble and debris from the road after service delivery protests erupted in Copesville, in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Shan Pillay

Published Apr 19, 2016


Durban - Angry residents of Copesville have vowed to continue with their protest, holding the Pietermaritzburg suburb hostage until their demands for water, electricity and housing are met.

Small pockets of protesters were still on the roads in and around Copesville on Tuesday morning, however residents confirmed that vehicles and taxis had been allowed to leave unhindered.

Police were on scene, keeping watch lest the demonstration escalates.

Fires burned and anger had simmered into the early hours of Tuesday as police and protesters clashed.

At the time of publication, about 20 people had been arrested for public violence.

One resident said the situation resembled a “war zone”. “We are prisoners in our own homes. While I understand why this is happening, it is also very frustrating that our lives are being held at ransom like this,” the resident said.

Day two of the protest looked set to replay on Monday, as police continued to monitor the situation.

Apart from improved service delivery, residents were demanding ward councillor Thandi Ndlovu be removed from her position.

In an attempt to persuade the authorities how serious they were about their demands, protesters burned down Ndlovu’s house in Copesville, ignoring police calls for calm.

Protesters took to the streets early Monday, blocking entry and exit points to Copesville.

Police spokesperson, Major Thulani Zwane, confirmed that about 2 000 hostile residents blocked the main road to the area with burning tyres, rocks and other objects, making it impossible for residents to go to work or school.

Zwane said police had a difficult time monitoring the situation as protesters set Ndlovu’s house alight, threw stones at cars attempting to leave the suburb, and refused to disperse.

“Police were forced to use teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” he said.

Three people were injured by rubber bullets and a 3-year-old child was treated for tear gas inhalation.

Protesters are angry at ward councillor Ndlovu’s “poor service delivery”.

A protester, who identified himself as Cecil Thabethe, said they would not back down until Ndlovu was removed and the Msunduzi Municipality heeded their calls for basic human rights. ”We are tired of being ignored and lied to. We want what we were promised,” Thabethe said.

Issues that have spurred the protest include a lack of slowness in the delivery of water, electricity and housing.

Ndlovu was not available for comment, as the Daily News was told she was in hospital.

Msunduzi spokesperson, Nqobile Madonda, said the municipality condemned the violence, destruction of property and intimidation in the guise of service delivery protests.

“The municipality has various structures and platforms to engage with community members other than them resorting to violence,” she said.

Madonda said the Msunduzi Municipality had been able to deliver basic services to most communities within their wards, guided by its Integrated Development Plan.

“The municipality notes yesterday’s actions and will be engaging with the community to find viable solutions... The municipality urges residents to remain calm and respect the rights of other residents and not stop them from engaging in their daily activities,” Madonda said.

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Daily News

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