Police and residents clash

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Fifteen angry residents of Klaarwater township west of Durban were yesterday arrested while demanding the resignation of a local councillor.

The protesting members of the community were apprehended outside the municipality offices.

The protests brought the township to a standstill as residents went on the rampage -- burning tyres and overturning refuse bins to block the road leading into the area.

Residents clashed with members of the public order policing unit who were monitoring the situation.

Community members came face to face with the police when they went to the local high school, opened the gates and forced pupils out of classrooms to join the protest.

Some protesters, wielding knobkierries, also threw stones at the police and blocked the road with scrap car parts.

Police responded with rubber bullets to disperse the enraged crowd and allow taxis into the township.

One officer was injured and rushed to hospital.

A resident who was shot with a rubber bullet claimed police fired at them without provocation.

"Police fired shots at the protesters and people became angry and retaliated with stones.

"We voted for this councillor, but we no longer want him," said the resident.

The protesters are accusing councillor Talent Hlongwa of selling sites to friends.

"There is a new housing project and Hlongwa allocated sites to his friends while we had registered four years ago.

"We are the local people, but houses are given to outsiders," they said.

Nhlanhla Myeza, a member of the Klaarwater Residents Association, said they were not fighting the councillor but "merely demanding to benefit" from the new development.

"This was not just a protest, but making our voices heard".

Hlongwa had indicated to the community on Sunday that he had offered to resign.

Myeza denied that community members forced pupils out of classrooms.

Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said more police had been deployed in the township to monitor the situation.

"We have arrested several residents who were part of the protest. The officer who was injured is in a stable condition," he said.

Attempts to get Hlongwa were fruitless and his phone was off.