Johannesburg - Members of the Red Ants clearing up rubbish during the Pikitup strike said they were shot by attackers, but police say they were mistakenly shot by their own colleague.
By Wednesday morning there were two very different versions of the shooting incident in the Joburg CBD that left three Red Ants workers critically injured.
The shooting happened on Klein Street near the Wanderers Street taxi rank, while Red Ants workers were cleaning the inner city. They were hired by Pikitup to collect rubbish during the utility workers’ ongoing strike.
Initial reports were that the shooting happened on Tuesday but now police say it was on Monday night.
Johannesburg Central police station spokesman Warrant Officer Xoli Mbele told The Star that Red Ants workers were approached and surrounded by a group of people.
“A Red Ants member then grabbed the gun of a security personnel who was with them and opened fire. He was shooting at everyone and injured several members of the Red Ants,” Mbele said.
He confirmed that police had the firearm that was apparently used and that it belonged to the security guard.
No arrests have been made.
“A case of attempted murder has been opened and we are still investigating the circumstances surrounding this. The details are still sketchy.”
However, according to Red Ants owner Johan Bosch, that’s not what happened.
“A Red Ants clean-up crew was busy cleaning the streets when they were surrounded by several people. One opened fire hitting three of our guys in the chest and a fourth in the shoulder,” said Bosch.
Bosch said the Red Ants member injured in the shoulder managed to overpower and disarm the gunman but sustained the injury during the struggle for the firearm.
“We do have security guards protecting them; but the crew was taken by surprise.”
He said they were however willing to bring in another 15 000 security guards to protect the cleaning crews.
Despite the incident, the Red Ants are determined to carry on cleaning the streets.
“It’s a sad thing when people resort to violence when they’re trying to enforce their point of view. We’re trying to assist the city and in doing so, have been attacked, but we won’t let this stop us. That’s the advantage of the Red Ants, we don’t run away from the problem, we deal with it,” Bosch said.
“We’ve always had attacks during clean-ups like this over the years and we try to avoid armed altercations because it leads to death; that’s why Red Ants only carry rubber bullets.”
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) national spokesman Papikie Mohale said on Wednesday morning the union had distanced itself from the allegations that it was Samwu or Pikitup workers who were involved in the shooting.
“Our workers do not carry guns, they’re cleaners. We deny that they did any shooting.”
Red Ants chief operating officer Fuzile Balintulo said on Tuesday night that he was unsure who the gunman was.
“We cannot point fingers, but at this stage, it appears it was likely to be a group of disgruntled Pikitup workers who did not like to see us cleaning the inner city.”
Pikitup employees have been striking for the past week.
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