THE family of a man who died after police opened fire in the Lydenburg area has accused the officer who they claim pulled the trigger of killing him so that he wouldn't have to pay a building debt.

Jacob Malakane, 24, of Mashishing township, was shot on Friday.

Police say they opened fire to protect themselves against angry community members demonstrating against their municipality.

A 15-year-old girl, Emily Madonsela, who was on her way to a spaza shop to buy bread, is fighting for her life in hospital.

More than 20 other people were wounded and have been hospitalised.

Ten other people, including a leader of the Mashishing Activist Forum, were arrested during the protest.

The community has protested for the past three weeks after discovering that more than R3million had disappeared from the Thaba Chweu municipality's bank account.

The protests, in which the community wants mayor Clara Ndlovu and other top officials to step down, included storming the council's chambers.

Samaria Malakane, the grandmother of the deceased, said her grandson had told her the policeman (his name is known to Sowetan) owed him money after failing to pay for the tiling of his house.

Police spokesperson Sibongile Khumalo denied police used live ammunition - despite cartridges being found at the scene.