Cops were heavy-handed, claim Wesselton residents

2011-02-19 16:14

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) has received numerous complaints about “heavy-handed” police officers deployed to quell the protests in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, this week.

Some residents of Wesselton township, near Ermelo, claim they were ambushed in their homes and then shot at with rubber bullets.

The youngest victim of these alleged indiscriminate attacks is six-year-old Silindile Maseko, who was shot in one ear at her home in Thusi Section.

Silindile’s mother, Nurse Maseko (36), said they were relaxing in their yard on Wednesday when the police, who were chasing rioters who had run into her house, shot her child with a rubber bullet.

“This is a child and I really can’t understand why she was shot at.

We went to the Ermelo police station to report this matter, but we were turned away,” Maseko said.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini could not confirm the number of cases reported to the directorate.

“I can confirm that we’re investigating a number of complaints such as assault and use of excessive force,” Dlamini said.

These cases included the death of Solomon Madonsela (45), whose body was found in a field at New Ermelo.

Residents this week claimed that police forced them to remove burning tyres and broken bottles with their bare hands. Some were allegedly slapped.

The police fired rubber bullets at their houses, breaking some windows and car windscreens.Mpumalanga police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said 53 residents had been charged.

They had appeared in the Ermelo magistrate’s court and were released on bail of R200 each.

“Most of those arrested were released as they were minors,” Hlathi said.

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