A LEADER of Abahlali base Mjondolo, a movement for the homeless, yesterday accused the police of intimidating members of the organisation.
Spokesperson Sbu Dlamini was commenting after the arrest of 12 of their members at the Pemary Ridge informal settlement outside Durban on Saturday night. But the police have defended their actions, saying they will not tolerate communities blocking roads and throwing stones.
Dlamini said the attack was another attempt by the Sydhenham police to purge members of the movement.
"Recently the Kennedy Thirteen were severely assaulted in the Sydenham police station. Many of the people were injured when they were arrested and community members saw them being beaten further when they were put in the vans," he said.
He said residents of the settlement became angry and set up roadblocks after "officers began randomly shooting and assaulting locals".
More police reinforcements were brought in and 15 people were injured.
"Police went from shack to shack, kicking down the doors and assaulting people in their homes. People were beaten with fists and batons. Some were also pistol-whipped. The police fired several rounds into the shack of Philani Zungu."
Police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge said: "Three officers were conducting a blitz on illegal shebeens and drug dens in the settlement. There has been an increase in common assaults at the settlement.
"The officers came under threat when certain residents fired at them. Reinforcements were called in and they too were stoned and attacked by an unruly mob that set up burning tyre barricades. Officers retaliated by arresting the 12."
He warned that the police would not tolerate "unlawful actions" and will not work outside the parameters of the legal system.
"Some leaders wanted to negotiate with the police for the release of those arrested. This cannot be allowed, especially if the law is broken," Mdunge said.
The 12 are expected to appear in the Pinetown magistrate's court today.