Guards fire on police and protesters

2013-10-10 00:00

SECURITY guards at a Phoenix wholesale shopping centre opened fire on police and protesters yesterday, injuring at least 18, witnesses said.

Police were escorting hundreds of protesters who had embarked on a legal march when the firing occurred at Favors Cash and Carry in Paragon Road.

Witnesses said the protesters – led by the controversial Mazibuye African Forum, which has campaigned against Indian businesspeople — were confronted by the security guards.

Witnesses said the security guards, armed with R4 and R5 rifles, fired rubber bullets and also used pepper spray. Some people claimed live rounds were also used.

Police officers ran for cover along with protesters.

“We heard gunshots but had no idea who was firing. We all squatted to hide behind the vehicles.

“The shooting lasted for a few minutes and one man was found on the ground bleeding profusely,” said an officer on the scene.

Several protesters were rushed to hospital, while 15 were treated on the scene.

Three firearms were seized by police from the security guards.

The scene was cordoned off for hours with 11 cartridges circled on the ground.

Police had to call for back-up when the guards started firing, with at least 12 police vehicles responding.

The protesters, who claimed to be employed by Trade Port Distributors Network, the owner of the outlets in the area, were demanding a wage increase to R100 per day from R70 for general workers.

They were also demanding drivers be paid R250 a day and their assistants R150.

The protest started on Monday.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a case of attempted murder was being investigated.

Zwane said an injured man was rushed to hospital together with the other victims.

“Three firearms were confiscated from the security guards and no arrests have been made at this stage.”

However, Favors Cash and Carry manager, Mohammed Iqbal, disputed that guards had fired at the police and the crowd.

He said guards had noticed the crowd armed with sticks and stones coming to the premises.

“Our security were forced to utilise maximum force to disperse the crowd that threatened our business and customers. There were no police on the scene when security guards fired at the crowd,” he said.

He claimed the crowd had tried to force open the gate.

Iqbal also claimed there were no people employed in their business participating in the protest.

Phumlani Mfeka, the forum’s leader, said they were called by their members to negotiate on their behalf for wage increases.

“A peaceful protest started on Monday and the employer asked to meet with us today. But people were just shot by security guards. I was in the lead of workers when security guards started firing at us,” he said.

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