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JOHANNESBURG - Protests in Westbury turned bloody on Friday when a woman was shot in the leg by police who had descended on the township in numbers.
Residents were up in arms since dawn. Their protests were sparked by the fatal shooting of a woman on Thursday. The mother was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout between gangs. Her 10-year-old daughter was also hurt in the shooting and has been hospitalised.
Westbury has been rocked by a serious drug abuse problem and gun violence that culminated in the fatal shooting. A suspect was shot and injured and is under police guard in hospital.
On Friday irate residents complained that their dire situation was being compounded by corrupt police officers whom they said were colluding with drug dealers and other criminals in Westbury.
The protesters burned tyres and blocked roads in the area. Others went to the nearby Sophia Police Station, where they milled outside.
Ironically, Grace Mattera who was part of a group of residents protesting the fatal shooting of the woman by gangs was herself shot In the leg - by the police.
Speaking while receiving treatment at a hospital Mattera said she suspected she had been shot with "live ammunition" because her ankle had an "open wound".
She said at first police used teargas. Mattera said at some stage she realised she could not move her leg. "When I looked there was blood everywhere," said the distraught woman.
Her crime, she said, was to speak to reporters. Mattera said she was doing an interview with reporters when she was shot.
She said the unprovoked shooting meant that now "we can't talk because our children are getting killed ... we must say nothing”.
Other protesters said they were "very disappointed" by the police inaction in tackling drug abuse and gun crimes in the area.
“People have been killed and police come to take statement and pictures but no one has been arrested because they work with those drug lords and they took bribery from them,” said a resident who identified herself as Lorraine Davids.
She said they want Sophiatown Police Station to be closed or the government should hire new staff.
“We need protection but this police can't protect us. Who said 'Coloured' people don't need protection?
"We have a right to be protected by the police,” demanded Davids.
Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said: “Two suspects have been arrested. We can confirm that one woman was shot with a rubber bullet while she was trying to run away”.
African News Agency (ANA)