Two main thoroughfares in the Motherwell area, the Addo road and the R334, have been closed – probably for the rest of the week – amid ongoing evictions and protests, with a bus full of schoolchildren targeted by the protesters yesterday.
The roads were closed after vehicles at the municipal disposal depot on the Addo road were pelted with stones and petrol bombs on Tuesday night.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said police would also monitor the stretch of road from the N2 to the M17, going past Truckers Inn, over the next few days.
Should violent incidents occur, these roads would also be closed.
“The situation is tense in Wells Estate and we might have to close the N2 going past Bluewater Bay,” he said.
The road closures are a worry for the citrus industry, which fears they could lead to job losses.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber spokeswoman Cindy Preller said: “The R334 is a vital lifeline that connects the tourism and agricultural sectors in the region with our city’s harbours, airport and logistics centres.
“It is very concerning for the business community that free access on this road has been negatively affected.”
Agri Eastern Cape president Doug Stern said the road closures could seriously affect the citrus industry in the Sundays River Valley.
“There might be alternative routes for farmers, who will have to find detours around the protests to access the ports as there is a small window to get the fruits off shore,” he said.
He said farmers had already been hit by severe losses following abnormal weather patterns earlier this year.
“If this escalates, it could affect employment if all the roads to the ports are blocked.”
Sundays River Citrus Company managing director Hannes de Waal said the road closures were a massive inconvenience.
“I have not spoken to the truckers, but the problem in Motherwell has been going on for quite a while,” he said.
“We also have staff and customers who have to come to us through Port Elizabeth. This doesn’t stop our business but it is quite disruptive and a big inconvenience.”
De Waal said it also meant there would be additional costs for transportation.
“We are in the peak of our season now, one does not want disruptions,” he said.
”We have already had a very complicated season and this is another irritation.”
Police, meanwhile, expressed shock that schoolchildren had become the target of the protesters’ rage.
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