Protest action by city hawkers which has brought business to its knees since Tuesday continued in the Pretoria CBD on Thursday.
With shop owners living and operating in fear, the CBD has become a skeleton of its former self and it does not look as if the situation is about to change. Some hawkers took to the streets on Thursday and intimidated shops that were still open, forcing them to close.
Police came out in their numbers to try to restore order. Seven people were arrested for public violence on Thursday.
Tshwane metro police spokesman Console Tleane said the situation was a bit better on Thursday as compared to the previous two days when protesters closed down businesses, looting some in the process.
They also assaulted other hawkers who were selling on the sides of the streets and forced about 90 percent of the shops in Lilian Ngoyi (Van der Walt) as well as those in Helen Joseph (Church) Street to close, along with those at the Bloed Street Mall.
Tleane said although the hawkers were destructive and blocked roads, they managed to contain them.
“We had to use rubber bullets when they started pelting our officers with stones. We are currently on top of the situation and hope to see the matter resolved very soon,” he said. Tleane said there was a bit of looting near Marabastad and some shops were stoned.
The chairman of the Informal Traders Association, Vincent Matjeng, opened a case on Thursday against four Tshwane metro police officers who he alleges shot him without any provocation.
According to Matjeng, he was on the corner of Struben and Lilian Ngoyi streets when the officers approached him.
“They just said ‘here is one of the protesters from Marabastad’ and they shot me. I was shot four times for nothing,” he said.
A bruised Matjeng then went to the Pretoria Central police station to open a case against the officers, but he was apparently turned away by a lieutenant at the station. According to him, the lieutenant refused to open the case and told him to go to the metro police offices to lay a complain there.
“He said they [the SAPS] don’t handle matters involving metro police. He chased me out of the police station until a captain came and assisted me in opening a case,” said Matjeng. He said a charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm was then opened.
A livid Matjeng said he did not understand why he was refused help the first time. But police spokesman Captain Bonginkosi Msimango said it was not that the man was refused help but that police needed clarification on the matter.
“It was an issue of misunderstanding. Police just wanted to clarify as to what had exactly happened, but he took it the wrong way. They wanted to help but at the same time understand exactly what kind of charge should be laid if there was a case,” said Msimango.
Tleane said Matjeng should come to their offices to lay a charge against the officers.