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The #FreeZuma protests are gaining momentum in KwaZulu-Natal, with demonstrators leaving destruction in their wake.
Supporters of the incarcerated former President, Jacob Zuma, began their tirade on Friday, 9 July 2021—reaching levels where several trucks were torched in Mooi River, forcing the road to be closed and traffic diverted.
Such was the destruction; KZN Premier Zikalala called for utmost discipline and for protesters to express their anger through legitimate and peaceful platforms. “We understand the extreme anger of the people who are protesting. As a country and province, we find ourselves in a very unusual and unique situation wherein we are dealing with the arrest of a former President of the ANC and the country. We are therefore dealing with very challenging times. However, we call on those who are protesting to do so through peaceful means and to avoid violence and destruction at all costs.”
In addition, he added that while the government fully comprehends the feelings of the community, unfortunately, violent and destructive protests often affect or harm even the people who are not involved and even those who share the very same pain and concerns as the protesters.
Premier Zikalala also cautioned on the impact of illegal gatherings under Adjusted Risk Level-4 and the impact on Covid-19 infections. Health experts have also warned that the rate of infection in the province has now hit double digits in the majority of the districts. “We have been thoroughly briefed on the security situation on the ground and we can assure the people of the province that all law-enforcement authorities are now on high alert and are addressing the incidents as they evolve. Again, we must not allow the current situation to divert us from our known culture of respect and Ubuntu,” affirmed Premier Zikalala.
Furthermore, Premier Zikalala said the provincial government would urgently convene the Crime Justice and Security Cluster (JCPS) meeting to further assess the situation and review strategies in dealing with such threats and violence.
During the protests, Newcastle did not escape from the angry mobs calling for Zuma’s freedom. A video currently circulating shows protestors burning tyres in Northern KwaZulu-Natal on the N11 near Waterside, outside Newcastle, on Friday night, 9 July 2021.
This escalated even further when a truck was allegedly torched on the N11, northbound towards the Ncandu bridge, on Saturday night, 10 July 2021. Information around the incident are unclear, but it is speculated that protestors were involved.
With tensions running high, fear has set into the Newcastle community, with gross amounts of fake news and hype being spread. This fear stems from two posts being circulated via social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook. The one post calls for a national shutdown, urging people to stay away from work.
The second post reads, “As from Sunday night, as per meeting, we have agreed in principle that we shall continue where we left off. All townships in the Amajuba District, including Utrecht, Dannhauser will come to a grinding halt,”
It further reads that there will be no busses or trucks operating, urging people to stay at home. The message reads, “We will not rest until Jacob Zuma is a free man.”
Priding ourselves on credible news, the Newcastillian – Online News spoke to three law enforcement officials. According to the officers, they have not received any confirmation of a shutdown. “At this point, we don’t know if it is fake news or not,” one officer pointed out. Therefore, people are urged to remain calm and avoid participating in any violent protests.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker explained that Police in KwaZulu-Natal have intensified deployment and heightened visibility in response to incidents of public violence that erupted overnight in some parts of the Province since Friday, 09 July 2021. “Meanwhile, police in other provinces are also on high alert, keeping a close eye amidst continued threats of widespread violence.”
It is with this in mind, he said on Saturday, 10 July 2021, that the SAPS has condemned these acts of lawlessness that seek to undermine the authority of the State; and issued a stern warning to those behind the threats of more violence to refrain from these acts of incitement circulated on various social media platforms.
To this end, by Saturday, 27 suspects have been arrested since the start of the protests on various charges, including public violence, business burglary, malicious damage to property, and contravention of the DMA lockdown regulations. This comes after an unconfirmed number of trucks were torched and several businesses looted in the Mooi River CBD. Efforts are afoot to track and trace more suspects.
Brigadier Naicker concluded, “Police deployment will remain in place to ensure stability and prevent the possible erupting of further violence.”
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