Sasolburg in lockdown as looters run riot

2013-01-22 00:00

SASOLBURG — The second day of rioting in this Free State town yesterday saw three police officers injured and damage estimated at millions of rands caused by looting and violence.

All shops in the town were locked down yesterday. Parents were asked to fetch their children from schools.

Several shops were looted and two trucks set alight — one just metres from the Zamdela police station.

Two police officers were attacked when the truck they were travelling in got stuck in mud.

Rioters also tried to prise open an ATM.

Hundreds of rioters pushed over the palisade fencing around Zio Cash & Carry, broke open steel doors and looted the liquor section. Some looters even tried to scale the sharp-pointed fence while it was still upright.

A police helicopter circled above the looters, and officers shot rubber bullets at the crowd below, to little effect.

The looters dispersed just long enough to dodge the bullets and then returned to carry out boxes of liquor. Cash registers, shopping trolleys and broken bottles littered the road.

Workers were meanwhile trapped inside the Zio building. One had to be treated for shock.

Police spokesperson Constable Peter Kareli said rioters in Zamdela fired on police vehicles and threw objects at the officers. One officer received stitches for a wound.

Elsewhere in Sasolburg, shops owned by expatriates were looted. Roads were blocked throughout the town and rioters yesterday burned a Fiat Uno on one of the roads out of town. The driver and passengers managed to flee. The crowd also tried to stop a bakkie, but the driver managed to race away through the veld.

Members of public order policing units from Gauteng and Welkom arrived at about 2 pm.

“Everything is under control and we want to keep it under control,” Kareli told Sapa yesterday afternoon. But he added that while some rioters had returned to their homes, other were waiting at street corners and stoning passing police vehicles. Shots could still be heard at 4 pm yesterday.

Residents in Zamdela started to riot on Sunday after being told at a mass meeting about a planned merger of the Metsimaholo Municipality, which covers Sasolburg, Oranjeville and Deneysville, and the Ngwathe Municipality comprising Parys, Vredefort, Heilbron, Koppies and Edenville.

Police said some 150 people had been arrested by yesterday afternoon.

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