Tonga - Three Mpumalanga protesters found guilty of public violence were each handed a suspended three-year prison sentence by the Tonga Magistrate's Court on Thursday.
France Nkumba, 29, and siblings Siphiwe, 22, and Phindile Masuku, 25, were found guilty and sentenced by magistrate Edgar Moletsane, a Sapa correspondent reported.
The three earlier testified they did not take part in the protest for which they were arrested.
Nkumba told the court: “I got arrested while I was on my way from buying meat at the butchery. I came across a group of protesters running towards my direction, and then the police arrested me for something I didn't know.”
The Masuku sisters testified the police arrested them while they were sitting under a tree at their homestead near a road barricaded by the protesters.
Prosecutor Thulani Msibi argued that police would never lie in court.
“It is impossible or madness that trained police officers who deal with the crowd can just arrest you for doing nothing. No, I disagree,” Msibi said.
Warrant Officer Patrick Mhlongo had testified that the protest, in Masibekela Trust along the R571 around 10am on February 20, 2013, involved about 600 residents.
“As a section leader of a group of six police officers I personally arrested the two women after I saw them holding burning tyres and running in a circle towards our direction,” he said.
This was while police were in full uniform and driving marked police vehicles. Their sentences were suspended for five years.