Newclare protest claims life of ‘good man’
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Johannesburg - Junior Gregory Loff was not supposed to be there. On Monday, as he walked near the railway tracks he would cross to get to the Bosmont Clinic, he was shot dead during a service delivery protest that turned violent.
Protesters from Kathrada Park, a stone’s throw from the station, west of Joburg, went on the rampage over a lack of RDP housing in the area, which they said they had been promised 12 years ago.
Residents and community leaders told The Star the protest was never supposed to be violent and that the protesters had decided to demonstrate peacefully by toyi-toying outside the train station following a meeting held just after midnight on Monday.
However, when some in the crowd broke into the station shortly after the meeting, security guards opened fire, sparking the violence and vandalism by the protesters.
“It just kind of spiralled out of control,” one community leader said.
Loff’s friend, Javeline Fritz, said he was a “very good man” and had nothing to do with the protest.
She said his family are based in Port Elizabeth and he lived alone in Kathrada Park.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Jerbes de Bruyn said it was too early to say if the security guard who shot Loff would be arrested.
“Police will investigate and see if he was under attack and if he was rightful in his actions,” he said.
Another man, Louis Seetelo, was hit in the right shin by a bullet after he went to use the toilet at about 4am.
“I didn’t feel the pain (at the time), I felt pain some time later,” he said, clutching the bullet fragment his wife Jasmine had pulled out of his leg.
Jasmine said they were both afraid to take him to hospital because they were worried police would suspect he was involved in the protest and arrest him.
Protesters torched several parts of the Newclare train station run by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) yesterday, as well as two security vehicles.
They also looted furniture from the station, most of which they set alight in a roadblock outside.
The protesters then tore down a wooden pole to scale the station’s roof and hurled rocks at police officers, journalists, and residents from the neighbouring community of Newclare.
Prasa spokesman Lesedi Mapheto could not confirm if one of their guards was the shooter.
“This is an act of pure criminality. Service delivery has nothing to do with our operations,” he said.
He said the protesters had tried to break into the ticket office to steal money but were unsuccessful. They had, however, managed to steal building materials that were meant to be used to upgrade the station.
There was a racial undertone to the protest between the predominantly coloured Newclare residents and predominantly black Kathrada Park residents.
People from both communities used racial slurs to describe each other, and both sides accused the other of trying to get the majority of the unfinished RDP houses, but none were willing to give their names to the media.
Early in the morning, one Newclare resident, Clayton Absalon, walked towards the Kathrada Park protesters, who began hurling rocks at him and gestured for them to throw more.
It looked like he was dancing as he had to dodge several of the rocks which flew past his body or crashed into the ground before him. “These houses were for the coloured people, our people,” he said.
Absalon said he had stood up to the protesters as he was tired of them damaging property.
“We’re protecting our families, our children,” he said.