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Ladysmith unrest – KZN government instructs police to hunt down and arrest truck torchers

Ladysmith protesters

The KwaZulu-Natal government has given police one week to find those responsible for violent protests which have rocked the northern KZN town of Ladysmith in recent weeks. In the latest incident, five trucks were torched in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The government also wants law enforcement agencies to restore calm, bring in more security personnel to rein in violent protestors who have brought most of the operations of the town to a halt.

The collective cabinet statement which was read out by provincial premier Sihle Zikalala on Tuesday after meeting with the Ladysmith chamber of commerce and industry, and going through the grievances of the protestors, outlined efforts to resolve the matter.

In a nutshell, the protestors under the banner of Ubumbano Lokuthula want Alfred Duma (Ladysmith) mayor, Vincent Madlala, an ANC mayor, out of office. They accuse him of using municipal resources for personal gain at the expense of service delivery in the collapsing which was once the jewel of the north.

Reading out the cabinet statement to the media after the meeting, Zikalala said as expected, all stakeholders are concerned with the current instability and want peace, law and order to be restored.

“We have canvassed many issues including the grievances about the functioning of the municipality. We want to start by condemning in the strongest terms the violent actions that have led to the destruction of property, torching of trucks and water shortages in some parts of the town. 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 school children missing out on school and businesses shutting their doors,” he said.

Zikalala’s cabinet then turned its attention to the burning of the trucks which were allegedly torched in the early hours of Tuesday morning on the R603 near Colenso bypass road. The incident resulted in the blockage of entry and exit points into the town.

Zikalala said they are deeply concerned about the instability of the past weeks because it has led to the closure of factories and inflicted huge economic losses of over R30 million rand a day.

“We have directed that the law enforcement agencies clamp down on lawlessness and ensure that heads must roll by the end of this week following the torching of trucks and destruction of property. We must isolate genuine concerns of the community from criminal conduct,” Zikalala said.

As the government moves to restore order, Zikalala said they had received a report from the police indicating that additional law enforcement has been arranged to monitor the situation and ensure that the rights of business and communities are protected at all times. In the process. Police have so far made 28 arrests – one of those arrested was found to be in possession of an illegal firearm.

Despite all this, the ANC as the ruling party that deployed Madlala, has not said anything about the matter in the past weeks. It has also not clear whether or not the party will recall Madlala like it did with former Mandeni mayor, Siphesihle Zulu. Zulu was recalled when residents engaged in similar protests in March last year.

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Mihlali Ndamase

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Source: Political Bureau