Bloemfontein – The EFF in the Free State says it is "disturbed and infuriated" by the death of a man, allegedly at the hands of police officers, during a protest at Sekoto village in QwaQwa on Wednesday.
"We condemn in strongest terms the use of brutal force by the [police] who continue to use live ammunition on protesters who are not posing any immediate danger to the police," provincial chairperson Kgotso Morapela said in a statement on Wednesday.
Morapela said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and the South African Human Rights Commission should investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.
"We want to reiterate that black life is not cheap and as such black people are also humans too and have a right to protest."
Morapela offered his "heartfelt" condolences to the family of the deceased.
Meanwhile, Brigadier Motantsi Makhele confirmed to News24 that the man was shot in the stomach while police were clearing the streets during the protest.
More than 20 arrested
He said while there were suspicions that the police were involved in the shooting – he could not speculate on the matter.
He said it had been referred to IPID for investigation. Makhele said that since the start of the protest, officers had arrested more than 20 people for public violence.
"Police are on the ground to ensure everything is fine. We appeal to the community not to take the law into their own hands, rather allow investigation process to unfold," he added.
He said officers had restored calm in the area but there were other areas where protests were expected to resume.
News24 reported on Tuesday that protesters in QwaQwa had barricaded roads with burning tyres and rocks.
Peter Khumalo of the SACP in the Free State told News24: "Yoh! QwaQwa is burning this morning and no cars are moving. All the shops are closed and there is no business today."
Claims of illegal employment of workers
Khumalo said protesters were complaining about lack of electricity and that the community wanted Maluti-a-Phofung Mayor Vusi Tshabalala to vacate office.
He said service delivery had suffered in the area since Tshabalala became mayor.
Khumalo has also accused Tshabalala of illegally employing 500 workers. "No procedure was followed and there were no interviews whatsoever."
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Tshabalala's spokesperson Kedibone Sentle encouraged residents to lay charges "to allow the law to take its course, without the actions of other residents interrupting any other public services that assist the vast majority of [the] community".
Sentle said the police had also been called to deal with looting and vandalism during the protests.
"We urge communities to demonstrate, communicate and solve their dissatisfaction in an amicable manner."