Pikitup protest: cops under siege
Johannesburg - Loud bangs and a flash of light followed volleys of rubber bullets being fired as Pikitup protesters ran for cover in Juta Street in Braamfontein.
A torrent of stones, refuse and glass bottles rained down as the protesters fought back.
Undeterred, the police continued shooting and throwing teargas canisters at the crowd of protesters.
These scenes played out on Thursday as the illegal strike by Pikitup employees entered its fourth day.
The employees embarked on the illegal strike over alleged corruption within the Pikitup executive and management, salary grievances, claims of nepotism and transport issues.
Thursday’s pandemonium followed a morning clean-up of Braamfontein’s streets after Pikitup spewed rotting refuse along roads during the recent protests.
Joburg mayor Parks Tau, members of the mayoral committee and Pikitup management came together in a bid to take back the streets and restore cleanliness and order.
“We want to get the situation back to normal as soon as possible,” Tau said.
But the workers, striking under the banner of the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu), were determined to make their point.
“We are not scared, they must be scared!” said one protester, pointing to the police.
“We are doing nothing wrong! Nothing!” the man added.
A man driving a bakkie tried to run officers down.
The police shot back at them, shattering the bakkie’s window as a stand-off between the two began. Several times, the driver of the vehicle made a U-turn and tried to hit police officers.
The officers responded by firing more rubber bullets. At one stage, a driver emerged from his vehicle holding a club, threatening to hit police who pointed their guns at him.
As the stand-off escalated, firearms from both sides were drawn. A group of unarmed protest leaders rushed forward, pleading with the warring parties to put their guns away. “Stop! Stop! Hey Stop!” they shouted at a protester brandishing his club.
Others held him back as he tried to attack police.
Protest leaders appealed to police to put their firearms down. But the police again began throwing teargas and flash bangs. Suddenly, it started raining glass as people from the nearby flats threw bottles at the police, who fired rubber bullets at them.
“They are going to kill us,” shouted one woman, as she streaked past, dodging rubber bullets. Police retreated as the crowd regrouped and pelted them with stones. Moments later three water cannon drove forward spraying marchers as more flash bangs were thrown. The crowd dispersed.
No injuries were reported, Joburg Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.
Pikituip managing director Amanda Nair said grievances had not been presented in the correct format.
“We have received nothing in writing, such issues need to be investigated. We are open to any scrutiny,” she said.@lanc_02
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