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IN PICS | Violent protests over electricity spread through Durban township

20 July 2020 - 16:47 By Orrin Singh

A power struggle over the provision of electricity to hundreds of shack dwellers in Lamontville, south of Durban, saw parts of the township blockaded with burning debris and tyres on Monday. 

Protesters clashed with members of the public order police (POP) unit and the metro police. 

One man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the main grievance was related to promises made regarding electricity. 

"The previous councillor asked us to vote for her and promised that she would get us electricity. She doesn't even live here any more - she now lives in Amanzimtoti," he said. "We are tired of these councillors and their empty promises. They come when they want votes and then we don't hear from them when they are supposed to deliver on their promises." 

Things took a turn for the worse on Monday morning when protesters targeted the Sizakala centre, which houses Sassa offices and a clinic, petrol-bombing six government vehicles. 

Police spokesperson Col Thembeka Mbele said three of the vehicles belonged to the department of social development and the other three to metro police.

The eThekwini municipality said on Monday that it was aware the violence stemmed from a power outage in the area after shack dwellers were disconnected by residents in formal housing settlements.

"This is after the transformer burst as a result of illegal connections and it has since been replaced. The informal settlement is under power lines and on invaded land belonging to the provincial government. As a result, the city is hamstrung in its attempts to roll out infrastructure," it said.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda condemned the incident and called on law enforcement agencies to find those implicated in the destruction of state property.

“While we respect the right of the people to embark on peaceful protests, we view this latest incident in a very serious light. In fact, this is anarchy. How do you demand electricity and destroy state property that is of help to the community?” he said.

“This is treason, as far as we are concerned. There is no amount of grievances that would justify this inhumane behaviour. Those responsible must face the full might of the law, nothing else.”

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka echoed Kaunda's sentiments. 

“The destruction of public property is unacceptable and there can never be any justification for the burning of municipal infrastructure and vehicles which are meant to serve our communities,” said Hlomuka.