‘Cops shot at people randomly’

2010-10-23 00:00

THE ability of the police to handle crowds has been called into question after their attempts to quell demonstrations by Jika Joe residents on Thursday night deteriorated into anarchical violence that left scores injured and property extensively damaged.

The police were called in after the community started demonstrating when a resident, Mndeni Zuma (33), a private security guard, was shot dead at the gate of the settlement, allegedly by a Msunduzi Municipality security guard.

Residents living close to the informal settlement were awakened by the noise of stun grenades and police firing rubber bullets to disperse a mob who were baying for the blood of council guards.

The residents blockaded a section of Masukwana Street, burning rubbish and pelting the police with stones.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said the chaos was caused by Zuma’s killing. She said Zuma suffered gunshot wound to the chest.

Jeevan said an investigation found that earlier in the day, at about 5 pm, two security guards were on duty at a municipal site when they were attacked by a group of eight men from the area.

The guards called for back-up and at about 8 pm the same group came back with another group of males armed with firearms, sticks and stones.

“The much larger group again attacked the security guards, demanding that they leave the site.

“One of the group members then fired shots at the security guards, forcing them to retaliate.”.

Jeevan said that during the exchange of gunfire, one of the males in the group was shot and killed.

This angered the community, who started demonstrating and throwing rubbish on the street.

Bheki Dladla, a community leader, said that after he failed to calm the residents, he decided to call the councillor for the area, Peter Green, and the police.

He said: “When the police arrived, they simply antagonised the community further. Instead of calling for them to disperse, they started shooting randomly.”

Three people sustained serious leg injuries and one was taken to hospital with a bullet lodged in her leg.

Dladla said he too was victimised by the police.

Two cars, one belonging to him and another borrowed from a relative, were extensively damaged by the police.

An eyewitness said three police officers seemed to be enjoying themselves breaking the windows.

Green, who was also at the scene, blamed the police for the violence.

“I believe the police are not properly trained to handle crowds. I witnessed them shooting randomly at the people,” he said.

A case of public violence has been opened and is being investigated.

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