KZN premier Sihle Zikalala calls for heads to roll over Ladysmith violence
Violent protests have cost businesses in the embattled KwaZulu-Natal town of Ladysmith more than R30m a day.
Speaking after an urgent meeting on Tuesday between government officials, mayors, community members and local businesses, KZN premier Sihle Zikalala condemned “the violent actions that have led to the destruction of property, torching of trucks and water shortages in some parts of the town”.
Residents have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand that Alfred Duma local municipality mayor Vincent Madlala step down. They accuse him of looting municipal coffers for his personal use.
In the latest incident on Tuesday, five trucks were torched on the R603 near Colenso, less than 30 minutes from Ladysmith.
Police described the situation as “tense”, adding that there was no public transport to and from the strife-torn town.
Late on Tuesday, the N3 Toll Concession advised motorists via social media that the Tugela East ramp plaza had been shut down because of the ongoing protests.
15h41 #TravelAdvisory 10/03 Please note that due to protest action on the R103 in the vicinity of #Ladysmith, the #TugelaEast ramp plaza has been closed to traffic by the authorities. #TugelaPlaza is unaffected and traffic is flowing normally on the #N3TollRoute.— N3 Toll Concession (@N3Route) March 10, 2020
Zikalala called for “heads to roll” after the latest truck torching incidents.
“Earlier this morning, we visited a site where we witnessed a total of about five trucks that were allegedly torched in the early hours of the morning on the R603 near Colenso, which resulted in the blockage of entry and exit points into the town,” he said.
“We have directed that the law enforcement agencies clamp down on lawlessness and ensure that heads must roll by the end of this week, after the torching of trucks and destruction of property.
“We must isolate genuine concerns of the community from criminal conduct.”
Zikalala said additional police officers had been arranged “to monitor the situation and ensure that the rights of businesses and communities are protected at all times”.
He said several arrests had been made, including 28 for public violence.
“We are deeply concerned that the instability of the past weeks has led to the closure of factories and inflicted huge economic losses of more than R30m a day.
“In addition, the present situation is compromising the future of workers as they are losing more than R2m a day in salaries.
“We are here because we are committed to bringing back stability and law and order in this town.”
Zikalala said they received proposals from concerned businessman and also met protesting community members.
“We are deeply concerned to learn that normal day-to-day operations have ground to a halt with public transport brought to a standstill, resulting in some children missing schooling and businesses shutting their doors,” he said.
“As expected, the priority of all stakeholders is on resolving the present crisis. However, we have also been able to cast our horizons further than the present situation and touched on areas that will enhance further growth and economic development in this region.
“We reiterate the point that everyone has the right to express their grievances without resorting to violence and acts that border on criminal behaviour.
“We want to assure the community that the government will pull out all the stops to arrest the anarchy that has resulted in the shutdown of Ladysmith.”