Cops mum on Bekkersdal incident

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IOL si bekkersdal 03 nov INLSA Protesters stand atop a concrete pipe during a violent service delivery protest in Bekkersdal, west of Johannesburg. Photo: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Johannesburg - Police on Friday declined to comment on reports that the ANC's VIP security fired live ammunition at Bekkersdal residents.

Gauteng police spokesman Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said he could not comment on the VIP protection unit's actions as it did not fall under his jurisdiction.

“We can't comment on their actions. They fall under the national office, they don't fall under provincial. We can only comment on our members.”

But Dlamini confirmed that rubber bullets were fired by police at the scene because their vehicles were stoned. Six people were arrested for public violence.

Dlamini referred other enquiries to national police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo.

Naidoo said he could not comment, and referred enquiries to provincial police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila.

Malila could not be reached for comment.

The incident occurred on Thursday when an ANC delegation visited the Bekkersdal area for door-to-door campaigning ahead of the May 7 general election.

The delegation included Eric Xayiya, Ntombi Mekgwe, Brian Hlongwa and Mpho Nawa.

Thabang Wesi, leader of the Concerned Residents of Bekkersdal, said residents saw ANC “bodyguards” with weapons in the township.

Wesi alleged that they shot at unarmed people, mainly school pupils.

“Residents then managed to retaliate. The situation was very tense,” he said.

“If people want to vote, let them go vote but (they) must vote out the ruling party. We can see the ANC is arrogant and uses force to coerce us into voting for them.”

The Star on Friday reported that ANC “bodyguards” fired live ammunition at residents after schooling was disrupted at around 11am.

Three police nyalas and heavily armed police patrolled the area and fired rubber bullets at residents and school pupils, it reported.

The Citizen newspaper carried pictures of the incident. On its front page, an officer in a navy blue police uniform is seen pointing a firearm at two residents backed against a wall. The residents appeared to be unarmed.

In another picture, a man wearing an ANC shirt is seen with a gun behind his back.

African National Congress Gauteng caucus spokesman Mbangwa Xaba said the ANC did not have bodyguards but VIP protection, which was provided by the SA Police Service.

He said the ANC representatives were protected by their VIP security in Bekkersdal because they were pelted with stones.

“At some point, a particular crowd got aggressive and started closing in on the public representatives 1/8on Thursday 3/8,” said Xaba.

“This should be condemned... Public representatives were barred from doing their work and still did a walkabout but were pelted with stones.”

He commended the police for ensuring that no one was killed or injured.

“Under extreme provocation, there was no loss of life and for that we are very grateful,” he said.

Moses Dlamini, spokesman of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), said he would contact his Johannesburg office to find out if the incident was being investigated.

He said usually if someone was injured or killed, the police would be obliged to inform Ipid of the incident so that they could investigate.

Dlamini said since it was unknown if anyone was injured, he could not say whether it would be investigating the matter.

The Democratic Alliance called on Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane to launch an inquiry into the allegations that live ammunition was used.

“Government and the police cannot be seen to condone the use of live ammunition on protesters under any circumstances,” said DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane.

“Premier Mokonyane must act without delay to establish an inquiry that will lead to the facts around yesterday’s use of live ammunition in Bekkersdal.”

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza could not be reached for comment.

Sapa



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