FIERY PROTEST BLOCKS N2 NEAR BUT­TER­WORTH

End of strike against Amath­ole does lit­tle to pacify res­i­dents

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - ASANDA NINI SE­NIOR RE­PORTER asan­[email protected]­patch.co.za

But­ter­worth CBD was shut­tered like a ghost town but out in the town­ships and along the na­tional road po­lice and com­mu­nity pro­test­ers were en­gaged in run­ning bat­tles.

Stones were thrown, some at traf­fic, and rub­ber bul­lets fired.

At the heart of the up­heaval is lack of wa­ter.

The end of a strike against Amath­ole dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which is sup­posed to sup­ply six lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with wa­ter, did lit­tle to lower the pub­lic tem­per­a­ture.

The N2 free­way was de­serted. Tyres burned and the wide main road was strewn with wood, stones and other de­bris.

The town’s taxi fleet was at a stand­still.

Hawk­ers sat in the sun, their wares packed away.

A sim­i­lar wa­ter protest across the Ama­tole moun­tains closed the R63 be­tween Alice and Fort Beau­fort.

The bar­ri­cades went up just hours af­ter Samwu, Imatu and ADM cut a deal and the unions called off their pro­tracted strike.

The only sign of life in But­ter­worth at mid­day was at the mag­is­trate’s court, where 16 town­ship and vil­lage pro­test­ers were ap­pear­ing on charges of pub­lic vi­o­lence. They were ar­rested on Mon­day night. The 16 re­ceived a hero’s wel­come from a crowd of 150 and were re­leased on warn­ing.

Their at­tor­ney, Msimelelo Qum­ntu, said a con­di­tion of their re­lease was that they did not join the protest.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers and at­tor­neys be­long­ing to the But­ter­worth re­gional at­tor­neys as­so­ci­a­tion ad­dressed the crowd.

Qum­ntu, speak­ing for the as­so­ci­a­tion, said they were rep­re­sent­ing the 16 for free (pro bono) be­cause the at­tor­neys fully sup­ported the strug­gle for wa­ter in the area.

Qum­ntu urged the pro­test­ers to re­main non-vi­o­lent.

“As the as­so­ci­a­tion we sup­port the protests, but con­demn all crim­i­nal el­e­ments as­so­ci­ated with them. This sit­u­a­tion is crip­pling all of us, as we have been cry­ing for de­cent wa­ter ser­vices since 2016.

“This has noth­ing to do with the ADM strike, but is an on­go­ing re­sponse to the de­pri­va­tion of ba­sic ser­vices to all of us. In­dus­tries are clos­ing; there is not a sin­gle car wash busi­ness here in town. They have all closed down, and schools have also been af­fected.”

Com­mu­nity leader Saziso Peter said the town and sur­rounds had been with­out wa­ter for over four months.

“It stinks here; chil­dren are get­ting sick, peo­ple are get­ting sick be­cause they drink the same wa­ter as an­i­mals, while many busi­nesses have been forced to close down.”

Peter said pro­test­ers had been shot with rub­ber bul­lets on Mon­day and that sev­eral had been in­jured dur­ing the fracas with po­lice. “We are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing bru­tal force from po­lice of­fi­cers with tear­gas and rub­ber bul­lets.”

The strike might be over, but the But­ter­worth com­mu­nity would con­tinue protest­ing “un­til a proper de­cent wa­ter ser­vices is a re­al­ity” he said.

But­ter­worth po­lice spokesper­son Cap­tain Jack­son Manaha con­firmed that a num­ber of vehicles, in­clud­ing those be­long­ing to po­lice, had been pelted with stones, in­clud­ing his own state ve­hi­cle.

Vi­o­lent be­hav­iour in six But­ter­worth town­ships – Cuba, Msobomvu, Bika, Ziza­mele, Mchubakazi and Vulli Val­ley – led to the ar­rest of the 16, he said.

In a memo dated Au­gust 13, Wal­ter Sisulu Uni­ver­sity vicechan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Rob Mid­g­ley shut and cleared the But­ter­worth cam­pus as a re­sult of the wa­ter cri­sis and on­go­ing vi­o­lent protests.

“Com­mu­nity mem­bers are now en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to join their protest and are de­stroy­ing the uni­ver­sity’s wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem.

“Po­lice have not been able to con­trol or cur­tail the dam­age,” Mid­g­ley said.

Drought has hit Mn­quma lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity harder than most ar­eas.

But re­cent vi­o­lent protests, in lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­der ADM, in­clud­ing in Ngqushwa, Raymond Mh­laba and in Mn­quma, were sparked by the ADM labour strike, with some ar­eas claim­ing “sab­o­tage” by strik­ing work­ers who had been ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately switch­ing off the wa­ter sup­ply.

On Tues­day, ADM spokesper­son Non­ceba Madik­izela-Vuso con­firmed that they agreed to pay work­ers a 6.5% in­cre­ment and the 2.5% salary pro­gres­sion. The unions con­sulted with mem­ber­ship and agreed.

The ANC’s pro­vin­cial head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Gift Ngqondi, said the party was “gravely con­cerned” at the way the protests had in­con­ve­nienced res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike.

Pic­ture: MARK AN­DREWS

BLOCK­ADE: An­gry pro­test­ers pre­vent vehicles from en­ter­ing But­ter­worth from the Cen­tane side, near Msobomvu town­ship, by burn­ing tyres and plac­ing rocks on the road.

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