Charges withdrawn against 10 'Fuel Prices Must Fall' supporters
Ten motorists‚ including a woman‚ appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court for their alleged role in the “Fuel Prices Must Fall” blockade on the N3 outside the capital city on Wednesday.
Paul Jenkins‚ a convenor of the “Fuel Prices Must Fall” movement‚ told TimesLIVE on Thursday that the charges of public violence had been withdrawn against the group. KwaZulu-Natal police are yet to confirm this.
Traffic on the N3 was brought to a standstill when truckers‚ joined by other motorists‚ blocked the busy freeway between Townhill and New England Roads in a bid to voice their anger over the recent fuel price hikes.
Thousands of motorists‚ including the province's top cop‚ were left stranded in a major traffic jam for several hours.
Earlier this week the Automobile Association predicted that fuel prices were likely to rise again at the end of the month. The association said current data suggested a price rise of 19 cents a litre for petrol‚ 13 cents for diesel‚ and 22 cents for illuminating paraffin.
South Africans are still reeling from a price increase‚ already at a record high‚ at the beginning of July. On July 4‚ 93 octane petrol increased by 26 cents per litre and 95 octane by 23c/l.
The call to bring traffic to a standstill was heeded in Durban‚ where blockades were arranged on the Higginson Highway in Chatsworth‚ the M4 in Ballito and the R102 in Buffelsdale.
Jenkins said he was baffled by the charges of public violence against the 10 drivers‚ as “the protest was extremely peaceful.”
“We are given to understand that the acting provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi was on his way to a meeting and was held up in the traffic on the N3. We understand he was extremely upset‚ and the arrests took place‚” Jenkins claimed.
On Thursday Mkhwanazi released a statement condemning the “illegal blockade on the N3... that inconvenienced thousands of motorists in the province.”
“There will be no negotiations with those that break the law. People found blockading our roads will be immediately arrested and detained‚” he said.
“Vehicles used to blockade our roads will be towed and impounded. Those found gathering illegally will be dispersed using the appropriate force that is necessary. We advise those that intend to demonstrate‚ to do so within the parameters of the law.
“No matter how legitimate your concerns may be‚ we will not allow any person to break the law. We have displayed this in various parts of the province where roads were blockaded.”
Jenkins said the community movement‚ which has over 20‚000 members on its Facebook platform nationally‚ had presented a memorandum three weeks ago to a provincial government representative‚ which was addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The memorandum threatened countrywide mass action on Mandela Day. The mass action‚ however‚ did not take off in other provinces‚ said Jenkins.
The movement asked that “an interim presidential order be granted to maintain the price of fuel at a maximum of R10/litre and diesel R10/litre‚ effective immediately.” It also asked for a task team to be formed.