Stun grenades fired to disperse protesters outside Gauteng SOPA

2017-02-20 12:56
The Gauteng State of the Province address in Randfontein (Mpho Raborife, News24)

The Gauteng State of the Province address in Randfontein (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - Police fired stun grenades to disperse a group of EFF members protesting outside Gauteng Premier David Makhura's State of the Province Address on Monday.

The group, which was marching in the surrounding streets, was apparently trying to gain entry to the venue in Randfontein on the West Rand, when police attempted to disperse them.

- Read more: EFF disrupts SOPA, Makhura warns of using Esidimeni tragedy as political football

Earlier, before Makhura spoke, EFF MPLs stood up inside the venue and asked that Provincial Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe allow them the platform to have a debate about the deaths of the Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients on an urgent basis.

Mekgwe rejected the motion and said the debate on the Life Esidimeni tragedy had been tabled and would be debated on the date which had been agreed upon.

Healing session

As he took to the podium to begin his address, Makhura asked the packed hall to acknowledge the presence of some of the members of the Esidimeni families’ committee.

He said the province was working closely with the families in implementing the remedial action outlined in Health Ombud Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s report which was released on earlier this month.

Makhura said his department and the families had held a healing session in Pretoria at the weekend, where families were given the platform to vent and address both Makhura and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Among the matters raised by the families, was the plea that the deaths of their loved ones not be turned into a political matter.

“At the healing ceremony families made an impassioned plea that as we mourn the tragic death of the mental health patients and take decisive corrective action, politicians and political parties must be advised not to use this tragedy as a political football because this prolongs their pain and anguish," Makhura said.

'Gross negligence'

Koketso Mojatau, deputy chair of EFF in Ekurhuleni, told News24 that the protest was due to "gross negligence".

"[The protest] was just to be in solidarity to the Life Esidimeni people who died due to the carelessness of the Department of Health in Gauteng. So we came here to pledge solidarity and also request that the Premier must step down because it can't happen under your leadership that such takes place and no one knows what is going on."

An elderly member of the EFF was reportedly treated by paramedics after choking on the teargas and vomiting blood.

Mojatau criticised police for the way they had handled the crowd.

"We don't support what police are doing. They are continuously turning our country into a policing state where people cannot protest. It is their right to gather, it is their right to protest. No one has a right to shoot at anybody, especially people who are defenceless. There were women there who were being chased and being shot at. How do you keep on shooting at people who are running away? It doesn't make sense.

"We just note and realise that very soon we won't have a country and its going to be a very serious problem because we are not going to be patient forever," Mojatau said.

Read more on:    eff  |  david makhura  |  johannesburg  |  protests  |  local government

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