About two dozen Phoenix residents were treated for moderate to minor injuries after a stand-off with members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Durban Metro Police on Monday morning during a water protest.
The protest, organised by the Voice of Phoenix, a civic movement, aimed to draw attention to the inadequate service delivery in the eThekwini Municipality township.
PHOENIX part 4
🎬 scene of rubber bullets pic.twitter.com/H2FtNM3cv8
— 🍎 Jenna 🇿🇦 🇷🇺 🇵🇸 (@jenna_original) January 30, 2024
What was intended to be a peaceful protest took a slight detour and resulted in injuries. Protesters stood at six major intersections across Phoenix, blocking off motorways, with police on the opposite side of them.
Private medical emergency teams, affected by the water outages in northern eThekwini areas, provided their services on the ground without charge. Sanjay Patel from First Life Medical, based in Ottawa, reported that his area has been experiencing water outages for over eight months.
Phoenix KZN Part 2
Metro police assault residents protesting for water in Phoenix KZN. pic.twitter.com/rhOTHDA3Z2
— 🍎 Jenna 🇿🇦 🇷🇺 🇵🇸 (@jenna_original) January 29, 2024
Patel and his team treated 15 patients on Monday, with most of them sustaining rubber-bullet gunshot wounds. Protesters were also treated for inhalation and exposure to tear gas. Contrary to false social media reports, there were no deaths resulting from the injuries.
According to KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson for the South African Police Service, Lieutenant Colonel Nqobile Gwala, four people were arrested during the stand-off. Gwala stated that minimum force was necessary as the crowd turned violent, throwing stones and bricks at the police.
Durban Metro Police also deployed officers to Phoenix on Tuesday to maintain order. Gareth Naidoo from KZN VIP, another private medical emergency services company, reported treating two patients for minor injuries.
The frustration and anger of the protesters were evident, with one individual, Shane Veeran, recounting how the police knocked out his front tooth with a riot shield during the protest. Veeran emphasised that the protest was intended to be peaceful.
The eThekwini Municipality, in collaboration with the Department of Water and Sanitation and uMngeni-uThukela Water, has communicated a plan to address the issues affecting the northern water supply. The authorities have attributed the water outages to increased demand and frail infrastructure in the metro.