The violent protests that closed the Mooi River toll plaza route on one of the busiest weekends of the year have been contained, police said on Monday.
Hundreds of motorists returning home after the Easter long weekend were delayed since dawn as a protest started by truckers over a wage dispute turned sour.
It is believed that while the truckers were protesting, community members from a nearby informal settlement started looting and burning the trucks. Sporadic protests had been reported from 5am onwards.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who was in KwaZulu-Natal for the Easter weekend, rushed to the scene when he was made aware of the chaos, said his spokesperson, Nonkululeko Phokane.
“Police Minister Bheki Cele together with KZN police management has urgently attended to the Mooi River protest. This follows reports of looting and major traffic delay caused by hundreds of protesters from the nearby settlement who are blocking the N3 northbound and southbound R103 and R62 near Mooi River toll plaza; which resulted in chaos and disorder on the national road this morning,” said Phokane.
“A joint operations committee has been set up and the minister is currently in that meeting,” said Phokane.
“Public Order Policing have been deployed in the area and have managed to clear the blockages,” she said.
South African Police Service KZN spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele, said the N3 was open by 11am, but could not confirm if any arrests had been made.
KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC, Mxolisi Kaunda, said it was important to get the protesting truckers to “engage” with stakeholders so that disruptions to the economy were averted.
The Mooi River N3 toll plaza is one of the busiest in the country, linking KwaZulu-Natal’s two major seaports with most of the hinterland such as the country’s economic hub of Gauteng, including SADC countries.