File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

JOHANNESBURG – Amnesty International has accused the South African Police Service (SAPS) of using excessive force during what the organisation described as a peaceful, anti-mining protest in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape, on Sunday.

In a Tuesday statement, the rights group said the behaviour displayed by SAPS members was “intolerable and must be investigated immediately”.

Amnesty made the call in the wake of witness testimonies, video footage and photos it had received, alleging that the police had used teargas, stun grenades and death threats to disperse protesters in the Xolobeni community.

Members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) were taken to hospital for treatment after being teargassed.

“It is unacceptable that the SAPS resorted to violence and threats to disperse peaceful protesters. The police must remember that community members have the right to peaceful assembly,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

“We must not forget the tragedy that happened in Marikana in 2012, and the repercussions it has had for that community and beyond,” added Mohamed.

Amnesty further urged the release of those who had been arrested during the peaceful protest.

The ACC, a community group, was formed in 2007 by villagers of Xolobeni in Pondoland, Eastern Cape, to fight titanium mining in their area.

Nonhle Mbuthuma, ACC’s founder, has united indigenous people across five villages who have communal rights to land in the Xolobeni area where, if a proposed titanium mine goes ahead, more than 500 people will be forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands.

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African News Agency (ANA)