Polokwane -The shooting of two protesters, allegedly by police, in Relela, Limpopo, was an act of barbarism and savagery, the SA Communist Party said on Thursday.
SACP provincial secretary Gilbert Kganyago said in a statement that the protesters were unarmed and taking part in a peaceful protest when they were killed.
The actions taken by police were reminiscent of the apartheid security state, he said.
Limpopo police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Wednesday that 15 police officers were injured and 19 police vehicles damaged when around 1500 people, armed with petrol bombs and stones, attacked the Relela satellite police station on Tuesday night.
Two men, aged between 25 and 40, were killed, allegedly by police during the confrontation. Nine people were arrested for public violence.
Mulaudzi said the intentions of the protesters were clear and the officers did what anyone would have done to protect themselves.
However, residents said they were shot at when they went to the police station to demand that police find the hands of murdered schoolgirl Khomotso Raolane.
Raolane, 15, was found murdered and mutilated in Mandlakazi, near Letsitele, on Friday, January 24. Her hands had been cut off. Her cellphone and house keys had been placed inside her stomach, which had been sliced open. Her arms were tied behind her back.
Two people were taken in for questioning but later released. Residents burnt their houses down on Saturday. During that protest a 15-year-old boy was shot dead, allegedly by police.
Kganyago said police needed to be seen promoting a culture of human rights, and called for an urgent investigation into the deaths of the two protesters.
“The SACP is deeply worried about the continuous acts of police brutality however sporadic they may seem. The loss of one life is one too many,” said Kganyago.
The deaths showed police were ill-equipped to deal with service delivery protests in poor areas, he said.
As South Africa moved into its 20th year of democracy, it could not be tolerated that police were unable to manage protests. The party sent its condolences to the family and friends of the two protesters killed.
The African Christian Democratic Party called for the police to reform their image.
“It is like SA has become a war zone between the police and citizens,” president Kenneth Meshoe said in a statement.
“The ACDP firmly believes that where respect is given, respect is earned. Unfortunately, our SAPS, while it has many fine officers, has not earned the respect of SA citizens.
“Police need to foster relationships with the community. Many crimes are being dealt with by communities, instead of by the authorities,” said Meshoe.
Meshoe was concerned by the police's response to disciplinary matters, since a police department which could not effectively police itself did not garner respect or foster respect for the law.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate's annual 2012/2013 report showed a 37 percent increase in reported complaints from the previous year.
The majority of complaints, 61 percent, or 4181 out of a total of 6728, were for alleged assault by police officials.
Police units needed better training in response, knowledge of the justice system, and victims' rights, especially in rural areas where many crimes, especially against women, went unreported.
The ACDP wanted answers about which crowd control measures and warnings were issued before live ammunition was fired.
“While all have a right to self defence, the SAPS has the responsibility of protecting the public,” Meshoe said.
Since the start of the year, at least five other people had been killed in protests, allegedly by police officers.
In the North West on January 13, Osiah Rahube and photographer Michael Tshele were killed in clashes with police in Brits during a protest for running water. A third man, Lerato Seema, died the following day from injuries sustained when jumping from a moving police Nyala.
Police said a fourth person died on January 19 from injuries sustained in the clashes. Residents claim the 36-year-old man was shot in the head.
On January 23, Tshepo Babuseng, 28, was shot dead, allegedly by a police officer, during a protest in Roodepoort, Gauteng, during a housing protest.