Witness: Protesters block N2 traffic


POLICE officers had their hands full yesterday when the Macambini clan on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast blocked the busy N2 and the R102, burning tyres and throwing stones at motorists.

Close to 400 people were protesting against the planned multi-billion-rand development in their area by Dubai’s Ruwaad Corporation, which is backed by Premier S’bu Ndebele.

Scores of police officers were deployed and reinforcements were called in to stop the protesters from blocking the two busy roads. When they failed to cope a police helicopter was sent in.

The burning of tyres and stoning of cars began as early as 7 am and continued into the afternoon.

It proved difficult for the police to deal with the protest because, unlike a normal demonstration at which people gather in one place and move together, the protesters gathered in small groups on different sections of the freeway. They pelted motorists with stones and burnt tyres when the police were were sufficiently far away.

In a scene that some reporters likened to a movie, police officers raced to and fro trying to extinguish flames on the road and protecting motorists from attack.

In most of the incidents, police were unable to nab the perpetrators as darted into nearby bushes and houses.

Police spokesman, Captain Mbongeni Mdlalose said six people were arrested and charged with public violence.

They will appear at Gingindlovu Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

“We believe that more charges will be added against them because some of them were also carrying dangerous weapons such as axes.

“We only arrested those who were too violent and fighting with the police,” he said.

Mdlalose said cars were damaged during the protest. Some protesters were badly hurt when the police fired rubber bullets. It is not known at this stage whether any motorists were injured when cars were stoned.

“We asked members from Eshowe police station and members of the public order policing unit from different police stations to come and assist.

“The situation is still tense, but we are managing it,” said Mdlalose.

The Macambini community claims that if Ruwaad is allowed to develop their area, more than 8 000 people will be forced to relocate to make way for the development, which will occupy 16 500 hectares of their land.

They support Sports Cities International, another Dubai-based developer, to take over, saying their preferred developer is willing to listen to their concerns.

Sports Cities International has promised to deliver a similar development at a cost of about R23 billion on about 1 000 hectares of unoccupied land, without moving anyone.

Thulani Mathonsi, one of the elders in the Macambini clan, said community members will continue blocking the roads if Ndebele does not call off the deal.

“I have five hectares of sugar cane farm. I will lose it if Ndebele allows Ruwaad to relocate us. I was born in this area and I love it,” said Mathonsi.

He said the community will demand the release of the six people arrested yesterday.

KZN director-general Dr Kwazi Mbanjwa met the station commissioners of Gingindlovu, Eshowe and Nyoni police stations to discuss how to deal with the sporadic protests.