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Johannesburg - The SAHRC will investigate the deaths of three people in Mothutlung, near Brits in North West, following violent protests about water shortages, it said on Thursday.

“The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has decided to launch an own initiative investigation into the causes of the protest in relation to the provision of water,” spokesman Isaac Mangena said in a statement.

On Monday, mineworker Osia Rahube and a photographer known as Bra Mike were shot dead during a protest, allegedly by police.

On Tuesday Lerato Seema died after jumping from a moving police Nyala. Police said he was trying to escape from custody. Residents claimed police brutality.

The area has been without water for at least three months.

Mangena said the SAHRC had met the Madibeng local municipality and community representatives.

It had noted residents' concerns and would follow up on the promises made by the municipality, which included restoring the water supply.

“The SAHRC condemns the situation in Mothutlung, particularly the unnecessary deaths of three people.”

Mangena said the SAHRC welcomed the investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). It hoped Ipid would establish the causes of the deaths and ensure that those responsible were brought to book.

“It is disappointing that the 1/8SA Police Service 3/8 top management seems not to have heeded the recommendations of the SAHRC following its investigation into the death of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane in 2012 during a similar service delivery protest relating to water shortages,” he said.

In its report on Tatane, the SAHRC found the police had used a disproportionate amount of force and that officers had not been properly equipped and trained to deal with the riot.

It recommended, among other things, that the police improve training to ensure protests were peaceful, and that a training manual for the public riot unit be developed.

“The SAHRC was willing to help the SAPS in this regard. It was also recommended that the SAPS actively engage in communication with communities where there are popular protests like in Mothutlung,” he said.

Mangena said the deaths in Mothutlung could have been avoided had the police implemented some of the recommendations.

“It is also worth noting that, a few weeks ago, the SAHRC issued a report on the failure of the Madibeng local municipality, which also covers Mothutlung, to deliver water services to the people.”

The report followed a complaint received in March from residents of Klipgat C, who said they had been without water for five weeks, and that the municipality had failed to address the problem.

The SAHRC found that the municipality failed to provide residents with water and sanitation.

“We recommended that the municipality put interim measures in place, that should be linked to the long-term provision of water,” he said.