/ 5 December 2008

Cops break up protest over KZN development

Police used pepper-spray and rubber bullets to disperse 3 000 people who had closed off a section of the N2 highway on Thursday in protest against a R44-bn development in the area.

Early morning traffic was brought to a standstill as protestors burnt tractor tyres and logs on the national highway between KwaDukuza and Richards Bay.

Disgruntled residents from the eMacambini area on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast were protesting against KZN premier Sbu Ndebele’s failure to respond to community concerns about the proposed development.

A memorandum handed to his office last week had elicited no response.

Moffat Chili, a member of the eMacambini Anti-removal Committee (MAC), said that at the time of going to press, there had been reports of 23 people being injured by police rubber bullets.

He also alleged that police had chased protesters to their homes, where they were also fired upon. Police spokesperson, Superintendent Vincent Mdunge was unable to verify this, but confirmed that rubber bullets had been used in dispersing the crowd.

Earlier this year Ndebele announced a memorandum of understanding between the provincial government and the Dubai-based Ruwaad Holdings to develop 7 500 hectares of land in the eMacambini area.

The proposed development was initially costed at R15-billion in May this year. However the estimated price tag has now risen to ‘R44-million over 25 years”, according to Ndebele’s spokesperson, Logan Maistry.

Chili said residents were unhappy at Ndebele’s ‘arrogance” at not having responded to a memorandum demanding the complete withdrawal of the project and a personal apology to the community for not consulting them prior announcing the development.

‘The premier has not consulted us, yet he is telling the world about this development. Both he and Kwazi Mbanjwa [Ndebele’s director-general] have said they will expropriate the land if necessary. We will be forced out like during apartheid: where are our rights?” said Chili.

The planned development will see the relocation of almost 10 000 households from the coastal belt and the closure of 29 schools and around 300 churches.

These will be replaced by the AmaZulu World Themepark with hotels, a gargantuan shopping mall, six golf courses, a game reserve and a R200-million, 100m statue of King Shaka at the uThukela River Mouth.

Maistry said Ndebele ‘would do what was best for the people of eMacambini” and that the consultation process with communities could was ongoing. During his state of the province address Ndebele said he hoped the development would start in March this year.

Maistry could not comment on how much of the total bill would be from taxpayers’ pockets or to matters relating to Ndebele’s non-response to the community’s memorandum. He referred all questions to Mbanjwa who did not respond to several messages left for him by the Mail & Guardian.