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Bullets fly at EFF march

Pretoria -

Bullets flew at Mooiplaats informal settlement on Tuesday when residents, mobilised by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), attempted to march to the Union Buildings with their grievances.

One of the protesters, Reginah Mabule, who was injured. Picture: Oupa Mokoena. Credit: PRETORIA NEWS

Police fired rubber bullets at them in an attempt to stop the march.

Buses arranged to transport them to Pretoria were blocked by the police, and residents decided to walk with their hands raised, from Mooiplaats to the Union Buildings. The raised hands, a gesture of non-violence, did not stop police officers from shooting rubber bullets and releasing tear gas canisters.

The informal settlement residents were supposed to start their march against poor service delivery from the old Putco bus depot in Marabastad, to the Union Buildings.

Instead, the march was cancelled and traffic officials stopped the five buses carrying the protesters from leaving Mooiplaats. The residents decided to walk to the Union Buildings.

Residents had permission to march on Tuesday, but the march was postponed to Wednesday by the city authorities.

The march was organised by the community and the EFF to demand proper housing, water and sanitation.

The EFF’s Eddie Galane said: “The first postponement was okay, we agreed with them. And now they come on the morning of the march and tell us that it has been postponed again. We have already paid for buses and people are ready to march and it gets cancelled. That cannot happen.”

While walking to Pretoria on the R55, police officers ordered them to stop, but they did not. When they passed the groups of officers on the road, the marchers walked with their arms in the air to indicate they were not fighting. The police told them to disperse and when they did not, they opened fire and released tear gas canisters.

At least 10 people were injured.

One of them, Reginah Mabule, was shot near the eye.

Blessed Magongoa had three rubber bullet wounds on her arm.

The injured were taken to Kalafong Hospital.

One of the marshals, Tshepo Makobe, said: “We were not violent. All we wanted to do was continue with our march, but the police did not want to listen. We were trying to negotiate with them and they just started shooting.”

A few AgangSA activists were also in the area and they tried to intervene between the police and residents. The party’s lawyer, Tshepiso Ramphele, said they would lodge an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court so the residents could march. “Saying that there is no one to accept the memorandum is not a reason to cancel a march. It is an excuse that can be used continuously. Reasons to stop the protest should be that traffic will be disturbed and that there is danger posed to persons.”

Residents threatened to burn factories, but at a community meeting held at a soccer field after the shooting decided they would wait for feedback from Ramphele and then march to the Union Buildings. “We will sleep at the Union Buildings. We will be the first community to do so,” said Galane.

Tshwane police spokesman Isaac Mahamba said: “We have been trying to get hold of two community leaders from last week to cancel the march. We told them last week and they insisted that they would march. There was no one in the D-G’s office to accept the memorandum.” He said four people were arrested for public violence.

Last month, residents stoned police vehicles over service delivery issues.

This week, residents received a letter from the City of Tshwane that they would be moved from the area to Olievenhoutbosch. The letter did not state when they will be moved.

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