UPDATE: Scramble for calm in iSithebe

Police were armed with live ammunition as ANC officials addressed a crowd of community members in iSithebe on Friday. Photo - Kyle Cowan

TENSION was palpable in iSithebe near Mandeni on Friday as provincial leadership arrived nearly two hours late for a community meeting aimed at quelling violent protests that rocked the small town last week.

Standing on a muddy field with fire-damaged factories a sombre backdrop, some residents waited from 11am to hear the ANC leadership’s resolutions on issues the community felt were not being addressed.

The meeting, the second of two, was attended by top ranking officials whose words were often greeted with boos from the 2 000 strong crowd.

However, despite their apparent unhappiness, calm prevailed amid a strong police presence.

Clinical approach

One of the many sources of discontent is the iSithebe Clinic, which residents say does not offer adequate support for their medical needs.

Another is the nomination of former Mandeni mayor and current PR councillor, Lawrence Magwaza to again run for mayor.

Spokesperson for the ANC in KZN, Dumiseni Ntuli, on Friday confirmed that ‘Comrade Magwaza’ had been asked to ‘withdraw’ as a candidate.

He also told the media that the leadership had been working hard to find solutions.

‘The community was also unhappy that we could not release those arrested on Monday,’ he said, referring to around 120 protestors taken into custody, whom the community wanted released.

‘This task was made difficult by the people providing false names and wrong addresses to the court.’

Ntuli expressed hopes that the suspects, charged with arson, public violence and malicious damage to property, would be released soon.

‘We are confident that everything should be calm now, and we are hopeful that businesses can reopen on Monday.’


According to one businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, this was easier said than done.

Many of the 200 factories inside the iSithebe Industrial Park were shut down the entire week, some facing contract losses due to non-delivery and many suffering financial hardships incurred by loss of production targets.

The business he works for lost an entire warehouse filled with 10 000 units of stock ready for delivery as well as valuable equipment when fires set by protestors on Tuesday night gutted the building.

‘It will take us at least 30 days to re-manufacture the units, not accounting for backlogged orders and other projects that are ongoing. It’s a nightmare,’ he said.

‘We might even lose some contracts. I know other businesses will. We employ more than 500 people, and some other factories more than 2 000.’

Ntuli said leadership would be engaging with businesses and the Department of Economic Development to ascertain the extent of the damage.


Kyle Cowan

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