Calm expected to be restored in Richards Bay after three-day CBD shutdown
For three days the central business district of Richards Bay in northern KZN has resembled a ghost town.
Violence erupted on Monday after protesters completely shut down the bus and taxi rank — responsible for providing transport to thousands of people daily.
What started off as community driven action last month to rid the town of “paras” — a colloquial name for whoonga (nyaope) smokers, who are often involved in petty crimes to feed their addictions — has spilled over into something else.
An impeccable police source told TimesLIVE that while unrest has been linked to long-term problems with criminal elements as well as police corruption, there seems to be another hidden element.
“There are hidden elements which have not yet been established among the organisers of these protests.”
The state of chaos, which has at times seen the CBD transformed into a no-go zone, followed the murder of a popular bus driver who was stabbed and robbed by alleged substance abusers last month.
Following the murder, an angry mob of community members stormed the SMME Park opposite the taxi rank, where they proceeded to stone a building and nightclub which is allegedly a popular hangout for drug dealers and substance abusers.
Since Monday 42 protesters have been arrested as police laid down the law in an attempt to restore peace in the coastal town — usually described as northern KZN's economic hub.
Their arrests, and subsequent denial of bail, triggered further anger among protesters — who have been linked to taxi and bus operators in the region.
On Wednesday the CBD once again remained in a state of limbo, with local shops and the nearby mall shutting their doors due to security and safety concerns, while protesters blockaded parts of the N2 near eNseleni with trucks.
Despite this, uMhlathuze mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo assured residents that calm would be restored on Thursday.
In a statement, uMhlathuze Municipality said it had engaged with the top leadership of the Richards Bay Taxi Association to reach an amicable solution regarding the unrest that led to the shut down of business operations.
“We have had hard and frank talks with the Richards Bay Taxi industry leadership and shared their concerns in the area of their operations. They have also raised concerns over the operations of the SAPS as well as the arrest of their drivers, which is an issue currently at the courts. We have agreed to some possible immediate solution and committed to facilitating further engagements with an intention to get long-lasting solutions.
Mhlongo also tasked city officials with taking swift action on the notorious building in the CBD touted as a drug den supplying vagrants around the city.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the ANC in the province said it was extremely concerned about violent protests in the area.
“We hope that the SAPS and other security cluster sectors will also play a meaningful role in stabilising the situation and to ensure that no further unnecessary violence takes place,” the statement read.
In a separate incident, protests erupted in the area of KwaMbonambi, north of Richards Bay.
However it is understood to be related to the provisioning of water in the area, as well as the community's dissatisfaction about a local councillor.