Africa & World

25 vehicles set on fire as KwaZulu-Natal protests get out of hand

More than 25 trucks have been set alight in KwaZulu-Natal as protesters calling for the release of the jailed former president Jacob Zuma ramped up their campaign on Friday night.

Under the banner of ‘Free Jacob Zuma’, supporters of the former president, mainly in KZN, had blockaded major highways and intersections in the province from Thursday after the former president checked into the Estcourt Correctional Services Centre in the early hours of Thursday to start serving his 15 month prison sentence for contempt of court.

On Friday night, the protest action took a swift fiery turn as protesters began to set trucks alight on the N3 highway near Mooi River, not far from where the former president is under custody.

But police are refusing to link the protests to the arrest of the former president, saying the protests were opportunistic.

On Friday night, the protest action took a swift fiery turn as protesters began to set trucks alight on the N3 highway near Mooi River, not far from where the former president is under custody.

But police are refusing to link the protests to the arrest of the former president, saying the protests were opportunistic.

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KZN’s Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu confirmed 25 trucks, including a dangerous goods tanker with highly flammable substance, was among the 25 trucks set alight between Friday night and Saturday morning.

She said the N3 highway had been closed as they continued to struggle to remove the charred trucks, while motorists were being diverted to the alternate R103 highway.

There too, she said, one truck was set alight, but they had since managed to reopen the route.

Said Mngomezulu on Saturday morning: “Right now we have 25 trucks brunt on the N3 and one truck was burnt on the R103, which is the alternate route.

“The N3 highway has been blocked and traffic is at a standstill, we are urging motorists to use the R103,” she said.

Mngomezulu said no injuries had been reported, apart from the 25 trucks being set alight.

Duduzile Zuma, the former president’s daughter, appeared to be celebrating and encouraging the arson of trucks on the N3, taking to social media to tweet: “Mooi River, we still see you, Amandla”.

Earlier on Saturday morning, she also appeared to be calling on other provinces to join in on the mayhem, tweeting: “Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State! Are You There? Nisa Right? Nisaphila? Amandla #FreeJacobZuma” – with several raised fist emojis.

She has taken to social media to post several videos of the arson taking place on KZN roads.

KZN police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said police had been deployed across the province to deal with the unrest.

“These police officers will be deployed along major routes and key points within each district to deal with criminal elements that are responsible for recent incidents of lawlessness.

“We will be focussing on enforcing the regulations of the disaster management act more especially the convening of illegal gatherings as well as those that are not observing curfew regulations.

“A large number of people have already been arrested for incidents of criminality witnessed in the province yesterday and cases have been registered to trace and arrest those that still have to be arrested,” he said.

“A number of incidents were witnessed today of people who are opportunistic and used todays protest to enrich themselves by looting shops and other businesses.

“Police will not tolerate such incidents of criminality and will be dealing harshly with those found flouting the law,” said Naicker.

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government is calling for calm and maximum adherence to the rule of law amid growing threats to shut down the province through violent protests.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said a comprehensive multidisciplinary provincial security plan had been developed and the law enforcement agencies were on high alert. — IOL

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