Two people were arrested and one was wounded and hospitalized on Friday, when police dispersed a group of protesters from Toise after they barricaded the N6 between Cathcart and Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape, demanding water and new roads in their nearby villages.
One of the injured, an elderly woman, was hit by a police teargas canister on her head, and rushed to the nearby Stutterheim Hospital.
The residents gathered from 5 am on the Fort Cuyngham Forest turn-off at Xaxazele River pass, where they started closing the main N6 road with burning tyres and wood, rocks, and logs. The protesters demanded to see the mayor of Amahlathi Local municipality to address their demands for water and roads.
The N6 is the busiest and the only thoroughfare between East London and Bloemfontein. The closure of the road meant that the transportation of goods from the Gauteng economic hub to the Eastern Cape’s cities of East London, Qonce and Stutterheim was delayed.
The residents, who came from the villages of Endlovini, Sihobotini, Bomvana, Rhawini and Ngqanda said there is no water in any of the five villages of Toise. They alleged that dusty village roads were impassable on rainy days, because they were muddy and were filled with dongas.
Community leader Nontshumayelo Mancam said residents decided in a meeting on Sunday to stage the protests after 18 years of being denied service delivery.
“Here our people are driving in donga roads and we drink with cattle, goats and pigs in dirty river water because we have not taps in all the villages. We have had enough,” Mancam said.
“The municipality must come and fix the water and build roads for our area. Our roads were last graded 18 years ago and they are now dongas and become muddy on rainy days, and the water we drink is not good for our health because it’s from the dirty streams where animals also drink. We have just voted and we have a councillor, why are we still suffering so badly,” said another resident who declined to give her name.
According to the protesters, members of the SAPS Public Order Policing Unit arrived at the scene and started firing teargas and rubber bullets at the rioters without a warning. Some police officers and security guards remained at the protest scene to monitor the protests.
The villagers were addressed by 4 municipal officials, including the former mayor of Amahlathi, Agnes Hobo. They discussed their grievances with the officials and Hobo, and together went to inspect the roads and water shortage in the villages.
Hobo and her team promised to respond to the resident’s grievances after 21 days.