Police deny using live ammunition in Thembelihle

2011-09-07 12:42

Police have denied using live ammunition to subdue protesting residents at Thembelihle, south of Johannesburg.

“I repeat, we did not use live ammunition,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale.

She was responding to media reports that a protester was hospitalised yesterday evening after being shot by police.

Mogale said Thembelihle remained calm early this afternoon.

ANC Gauteng secretary David Makhura said allegations the ruling party had failed to deliver on promises of housing in Thembelihle were untrue, as 6 000 units had been built there.

“Some service delivery protests are not about service delivery.”

He was speaking in Johannesburg about violence that erupted when supporters of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema clashed with police and journalists outside ANC headquarters Luthuli House last Tuesday.

Blatant acts of criminality often undermined the genuine concerns raised by people on real issues, Makhura said.

Violent protests were “completely intolerable and inexcusable” in a democratic society.

“These protests are often characterised by destruction of community facilities, attacks on councillors, blocking of roads and large scale disruption of schools.”

He called on law enforcement to bring the perpetrators of such violence to book. High rates of unemployment, increasing urban poverty, the high costs of food and electricity, as well as social crimes affecting women and children were common themes of such protests, Makhura said.

Eroding township economies were also of concern.

He said the absence of the ANC in community struggles was a weakness of the party.

Damage of R1.5 million was caused during this week’s service delivery protests in Thembelihle, according to city officials. They said protesting residents set fire to three load centres, depriving most of Lenasia extensions 9 to 11 of power from Monday night to 3am today.

This emerged from a joint statement by Roslyn Greef of the mayoral council and City Power acting managing director Sicelo Xulu.

A third of the area was still without power this morning, but City Power said all these areas would be reconnected by the end of the day.

Public lighting had been installed in Thembelihle to improve security in the area, but this infrastructure had been damaged by illegal connections. City Power would remove the illegal connections, but maintain the public lighting.

“While we remain committed to supplying electricity to all residents of this city, we are however not in the position to do any electricity installations in Thembelihle until the area is officially proclaimed a human settlement,” said Greef and Xulu.

City Power had opened a case of damage to property at the Lenasia police station over the fire. It said Thembelihle residents should take responsibility for the public lighting and protect it from those who stole cables and made illegal electricity connections.

Residents of the informal settlement planned to march today in support of those arrested during the protests, said police spokesperson Captain Mbulaheni Netshivhodza.

“We have received information that they are planning to march, but at this stage we don’t know where they will hold the demonstration.”

He said a heavy police contingent was present at the township and the situation was under control.

Both lanes on Klipspruit Valley Road had been opened this morning after residents barricaded it with burning tyres and rocks on Monday.

Eighteen people were arrested in connection with public violence and malicious damage to property during the protests against poor housing, water shortages and corruption.

Yesterday morning, residents fired live ammunition at police, a school and a councillor’s house. Police fired rubber bullets in return. Protesters also damaged cars, traffic lights and electricity meters and trampled on a 15-year-old girl as they ran from the police.

Two occupants of a Toyota Cressida were pelted with stones.

Tebogo Tshwala (11), who was hit in the face by a rubber bullet on Monday, was discharged from Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital yesterday, according to a report in the Sowetan. 

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