After two days of protests that brought the small town of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal to a standstill, government interventions were under way, while police made several arrests.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said on Friday officers have been deployed in the area since Wednesday. The Provincial Taxi Task Team, Public Order Policing unit and other units were out in full force.
Community Safety and Liaison spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said MEC Bheki Ntuli would meet with stakeholders on Saturday.
“A meeting is scheduled for the morning. The MEC has strongly condemned the violence and called on law enforcement agencies to maintain order.”
Mbele said the town had been brought to a standstill, with key points blocked by protesters.
“The protesters blockaded all entrances and exits to the Ladysmith CBD. The teams worked tirelessly to contain the situation, open blocked roads and address crime-related issues in the area. The N11, which had been blocked, and other routes have been opened.”
She said police arrested scores of people on Thursday. A 48-year-old man faced charges of incitement to commit a crime and obstructing officers from performing their duties.
“Three suspects aged 33 to 35 were arrested for being in possession of firearms and ammunition. They will face charges of failing to comply with the Firearms Control Act, as well as for being in possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.”
Five people aged 23 to 34 were arrested for public violence while 11 were caught for obstructing police officers in the course of their duties, Mbele said.
“The  suspects presented themselves at the Ladysmith police station demanding that certain arrested individuals be released into their custody. The team reacted swiftly and arrested them at the police station.”
She said another two suspects were arrested for common robbery after they robbed a truck driver of his vehicle keys. Six taxis were also impounded.
In its first comment on Friday about the protests, Alfred Duma Municipality spokesperson Siya Maphalala said the municipality was concerned about the violence.
“It is with great concern that we have reached this stage in the ‘Ladysmith Shutdown’ despite having complied with and processed all requirements of the Ubumbano Lokuthula Organisation.”
The civic organisation spearheaded the protests. Some of their grievances include that they want Mayor Vincent Madlala to go.
Maphalala said: “As council, we were expecting a report from the Ubumbano Lokuthula Organisation on how far they have gone in complying with addressing their concerns with Cogta. The municipality cannot investigate that which is the mandate of law enforcement authorities.”
Ubumbano Lokuthula Organisation spokesperson Andile Hlatshwayo maintained that Madlala should leave office.
“The community are declaring they want the immediate removal of the mayor. There are a number of issues including infrastructure, waste removal, which the municipality doesn’t take into regard.”
He said the taxi rank toilets were in an appalling condition.
“The taxi rank toilets are not cleaned. Human beings cannot use toilets of this kind,” he said.
“We see this as an act of corruption. As a politician, he is using taxpayers’ money for his own interest.”
Hlatshwayo said protests would continue.
“I am heading to Ladysmith now to support those that were arrested. Protests will not stop.”