Police have denied using pepper spray on a crowd outside a lecture hall in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, where President Jacob Zuma was speaking.
“I can categorically say police did not even have pepper spray on them,” Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Thursday.
“It was not the police who discharged pepper spray. It could have been anyone who discharged it,” he said.
An African National Congress member in the crowd died, apparently after inhaling pepper spray outside the hall on Tuesday.
On that day, supporters of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema entered the hall before Zuma could speak and sang anti-Zuma songs.
“Then the ANC security inside the hall contained them and assaulted them,” Mulaudzi said at the time.
Five ANCYL members were bundled into a police van, given a warning and released. When Zuma began speaking after 5pm, violence continued outside the hall.
The crowd pelted police with stones and a water cannon was used to bring the situation under control.
On Thursday, Mulaudzi said the pepper spray could have been discharged by ANCYL supporters, or pro-Zuma supporters.
“It could have even been both sides. We are not sure.”
Alpheus Moseri, 68, of Matatadibeng village near Denilton, died on Tuesday afternoon on his way home in a bus after the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture.
He began coughing, an ambulance was called and he was taken to Tsimanyana hospital, where he died.
An inquest docket into Moseri's death had not yet been opened.
“We are not sure what caused his death, so we are waiting for the post mortem report first before we do anything,” Mulaudzi said.
The ANC expressed sadness at his death.
“It is unfortunate that this took place after a successful event that honoured the legendary Nelson Mandela,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
“The circumstances surrounding his death are still a subject of investigation.”
ANC branches had already visited his family and conveyed their condolences.
“Comrade Alpheus who belonged to ward 13 branch in Maradi village... has a proven track record of activism in... the ANC,” said Mthembu.
“It is not surprising that he was among those who wanted to honour president Mandela by attending a lecture on his role and legacy in the ANC.”
The ANCYL in Limpopo has called on the police to find the person who discharged the pepper spray.
It was convinced that only members of the SA Police Service had pepper spray, said provincial spokesman Klaas Mabunda
“Our members are not thugs who carry pepper sprays,” he said in a statement. - Sapa