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Johannesburg - Shack dwellers around factories in Marlboro have accused the police of using excessive force to quell their service-delivery protests after a woman suffered a cracked bone on her hand when she was allegedly hit by a rubber bullet.
The woman was treated at the Alexandra Clinic and was due to be transferred to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital on Tuesday.
Her injury, and the accusations of police heavy-handedness, came a day after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced on Sunday that water cannons would be used instead of rubber bullets to prevent deaths during protests and incidents such as the one in which Ficksburg resident Andries Tatane died last year.
Mthethwa had been addressing representatives from community policing forums, NGOs and business at the Mpumalanga safety and security summit.
His statements were confirmed by police spokesman Zweli Mnisi on Monday. “The Andries Tatane incident in Ficksburg was unfortunate. We do not want a repeat of that.”
He added that the police’s policy on public order clearly stated “the do’s and dont’s” during protests. Quizzed about the alleged heavy-handedness by the police in Marlboro, Mnisi said: “Sometimes during operations the police get pelted with stones.”
But shack dwellers in Marlboro said the injured woman had not acted in a violent manner.
“The police used brutal force. They shot at us with rubber bullets as they chased us around with hippos and nyalas (police armoured vehicles),” said Charles Gininda, chairman of the Marlboro Warehouse Crisis Committee.
Joyce Maluleke was another local resident who was affected by the heavy-handedness.
She and her late husband had stayed in a room inside a factory building in Marlboro for more than a decade.
Maluleke, 42, did not have to pay rent or for water and electricity.
But when the factory owner sold the property in April, she was evicted and forced to erect a shack on disused land nearby, joining hundreds of other former factory dwellers now residing in mushrooming shantytowns.
On Friday, she watched helplessly as Joburg metro police officers demolished her shack - for the second time in a fortnight.
In the latest demolitions on Thursday and Friday, the police dismantled shacks in two disused sites in Third Street and one in Fifth Street.
When rumour spread that the police were to evict residents on Monday, an early-morning mass protest took place.
Roads were barricaded with burning tyres, rocks and an assortment of garbage.
When a team from The Star arrived at the scene, two Nyalas were seen driving in and out of the informal settlement, while police vans manned the entrance and exit points. There was no water cannon in sight.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said eight people had been arrested for public violence. - The Star