Police were deployed to Scottburgh, in KZN, following protests. Picture: SAPS

Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has on Tuesday, declared “war” on illegal protests that cause millions of rands in damage and adversely affect the economy and investor sentiment. 

Member of the executive council (MEC) for transport, community safety and liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda, said that the protests were cause for concern because not only did they harm the image of the province but were a danger to citizens and property.

Kaunda was speaking at a media briefing in Mayvile, Durban, on Tuesday, just minutes after taking part in an integrated law enforcement meeting at the same venue. 

That meeting included representatives from the South African Police Service, Road Traffic Inspectorate and Durban Metro Police, who were also present at the media briefing. 

For the 2017/18 financial year ending 28 February 2018, 530 illegal protests were recorded. In the past four months, more than 270 illegal protests had taken place, said Kaunda.

“More disturbingly are the recent trends where we have seen the blockading of national roads, including the N3 freeway on four occasions in Mooi River, Van Reenen’s Pass and Pietermaritzburg. This was accompanied by the damaging and looting of 18 trucks,” he said.

“Last month, we also saw the shutdown of the N2 major arterial route between the towns of Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe and burning of a library and road infrastructure in Ixopo in the Harry Gwala District Municipality.

“We must remind the public that when you block the N2 or N3 you are not only harming KwaZulu-Natal or South Africa, you are harming the entire southern African region,” said Kaunda, referring to the critical role the ports of Richards Bay and Durban played in the region’s economy.
He said any demonstration not complying with the Gatherings Act would be dispersed and its leaders could face arrest.

Illegal protests were diverting “valuable police resources” from normal policing duties in the province “where there is still pockets of killings” and therefore leaving “criminals roaming our streets”.

A sub-committee on public protests made up of himself, human settlements MEC Ravi Pillay, cooperative governance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube and education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane had been established by Premier Willies Mchunu to eradicate illegal protests in three months, said Kaunda.

He said flashpoints had been identified which included informal settlements and also noted the “extortionist practices by business forums including inciting labour unrest at construction sites”.  

Kaunda also accused political parties of using illegal protests as a form of canvassing.

“We discourage political parties from using genuine public issues and turning them into public protests that further cause disruptions in the society,” he said.

African News Agency (ANA)