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SHACK dwellers around factories in Marlboro, north of Joburg, have accused the police of using excessive force to quell their service delivery protests.
One of the protesters – Amelina Mashabela – suffered a cracked bone on her hand after she was allegedly shot with rubber bullets by the police.
The woman was treated at Alexandra clinic and she was expected to be transferred to the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital today. Her injury, and the accusations of police heavy handedness, came a day after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that water canons would be used instead of rubber bullets to prevent deaths during protests.
He was addressing representatives from community policing forums (CPFs), NGOs and business at the Mpumalanga safety and security summit. His statements were reaffirmed by the police spokesman Zweli Mnisi yesterday.
“The Andries Tatane incident in Ficksburg was unfortunate. We do not want a repeat of that,” Mnisi said.
He added that the police’s policy on public order clearly stated the dos and the don’ts during protests.
Quizzed about the alleged heavy handedness by the police in Marlboro, Mnisi said: “When it comes to fighting crime, we don’t give consideration of whether it is woman or a man, black or white.
“We will arrests whoever breaks the law. Our view is that most of the protesters are law-abiding citizens, but that is only a few individuals with criminal intent who infiltrate these protests. Sometimes during operations, the police get pelted with stones.”
But shack dwellers in Marlboro said the injured woman was not violent during the protests. “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.
When The Star Africa team arrived at the scene, two nyalas drove in and out of the informal settlement while police vans guarded the entrance and exit points. There was no water canon in sight.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said eight people were arrested for public violence during the fracas.