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A group of fishermen from Mandeni were outraged after an access road leading to the south bank of Tugela Beach was recently blocked.
According to the men, the beach access road, which is on Tongaat Hulett property, had been used for more than a century by local families, but had been blocked for about a month.
A Tongaat Hulett sign before the pathway reads, ”Private property vehicle access to beach closed.”
The fishermen believe the blocking of the road was sparked by racism from residents of the area.
At a protest last Friday, the group of about 15 men used a bakkie and rope to remove logs which were fixed to the ground, preventing cars from driving through.
“People were using this road for years but recently when we park our cars and go fishing, we come back to find that the cars have been vandalized and our tyres slashed.
“My family has been fishing here for the past 60 years and someone needs to answer as to why this access road was now suddenly blocked,” said Dopi Gaiedeen.
DA Mandeni councillor Kathleen Naidoo said she had been investigating the matter but no one was willing to accept responsibility for blocking the road.
“Something that was made accessible to the public for that amount for time, even if it is private property, cannot be suddenly closed.
“I personally took this matter up with environmental affairs, Tongaat Hulett and the farm manager, and everyone denies knowledge.
The access road to the south bank of Tugela Beach.
“It is common knowledge that the road is used by Indian fishermen and that the residents are mostly white. As much as we do not want to make this about racism, it has all the elements.”
Mandeni municipal manager Sizwe Khuzwayo said they had not been aware of the issue, but since it had been brought to their attention he had instructed the director responsible for beach management to investigate and give him a full report.
KwaDukuza resident Niren Shona said this was not the first time people had tried blocking off the road.
“This has happened last year as well and they removed the poles because it was illegal and now they have done it again.”
The farm manager could not be reached for comment and Tongaat Hulett has not commented at the time of publication.
However, a resident from the area who spoke to the Courier on condition of anonymity said the roads were blocked because fishermen were driving their vehicles onto the beach.
“This is not an issue of racism, years ago, a sign was put up on the beach warning fishermen not to take their vehicles to shore. They continued to do so. The pathway has been blocked to cars, but people can still walk through.”