Deadly day in Sasolburg protests

2013-01-22 23:13
Police Sasolburg (Picture: Volksblad)

Police Sasolburg (Picture: Volksblad)

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Sasolburg rioters want Malema

2013-01-22 17:45

Rioting residents of Sasolburg's Zamdela township called for Julius Malema during their ongoing violent protest. Watch.WATCH

Johannesburg - Two people were killed in violent protests on Tuesday as Sasolburg residents went on the rampage reportedly in protest of proposed plans to merge the municipality into that of Parys.

One died from gunshot wounds after officers used rubber bullets and water cannon against a crowd of rioters that had besieged a police station in Zamdela.

Protesters threw stones at police while some tried to force their way into the police station, said provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Khela Sithole.

"The crowd attacked the police station and shots were fired. After everything had calmed, it was discovered that one person was fatally wounded," police spokesperson Sam Makhele told AFP.

He said it was unclear if the gunshot wounds were from a rubber bullet or from a regular round.

Sithole said the incident would be a matter for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to handle.

"As police, we are not going to report on it," said Sithole.

The rampaging crowd from Zamdela, had looted shops and burnt property to protest a decision to incorporate their town into a neighbouring municipality.

Protesting residents are opposed to the merger because they see the neighbouring municipality as poorly run and corrupt.

Those thieves

"The Ngwathe municipality has run itself into the ground and we as residents of Metsimaholo do not want to be associated with those thieves," Zamdela resident and protester Sam Mthembu told the Mail and Guardian.

Another man was allegedly shot dead by a motorist during the violent protests.

Provincial commissioner Sithole said that according to the incidents reported, the community had obstructed a motorist while he was driving by.

"That citizen reacted by taking out a gun and shot at the ground; unfortunately one of the community members was wounded," Sithole said.

He later received the report that the man had died in hospital.

Police were investigating.

Protesters also turned on journalists, and a freelance French photographer was hit on the head with rocks.

"We were driving out of the informal settlement... and a group of about 20 [to] 40 guys turned on the car and started pelting it with rocks," said Alon Skuy, a fellow photographer who works for the The Times newspaper.

"We drove through to try to escape. All the windows were broken. In the process [the photographer] was hit in the head.

She went immediately to hospital. She's fine now," he told AFP.

Escalated violence

A total of 283 people have been arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property since the violent protest broke out on Sunday.

The protests forced the ministry of co-operative governance to suspend plans to redraw boundaries.

"The minister has undertaken to suspend the demarcation process and set up a task team to review the process," spokesperson Mpho Legkoro said, insisting the process hadn't been scrapped.

Peter Montalto, a strategist with the emerging market think tank Nomura, raised concern about the level of increased violence at South African protests.

"The fact that violence can escalate over an issue that seems so small shows the underlying social tensions," he said.

Meanwhile, the ANC condemned the looting and violence in Zamdela.

"Our utmost concern is the level of criminal activity taking place, including looting of shops," spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

"This will not only affect business in the area, but will also affect innocent residents."

The African National Congress praised government and law enforcement agencies for the "swift intervention" and the arrests.

"This cannot be allowed in a modern democracy such as ours, where individuals with ulterior motives take... what should be a peaceful protest to be a fertile ground for criminality," Mthembu said.
Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  protests

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