Cops probed over use of live ammo to disperse crowd

THE independent complaints directorate (ICD) is investigating allegations that Mpumalanga police used live ammunition to disperse protesters, resulting in the death of one man and injury to others.

The shootings that left Jacob Malakane, 24, dead and 15-year-old Emily Madonsela fighting for her life, happened at Mashishing township in Lydenburg on Friday.

Residents were protesting against the Thaba Chweu municipality following the disappearance of R3,2million, which was apparently siphoned from the municipality's main account.

During the protest, members of the community allegedly threw a petrol bomb through the window of a policeman's house but it apparently did not explode.

Police later claimed their lives were threatened as the protesters were very violent and threw stones at them.

ICD national spokesperson Tiyani Sambo confirmed yesterday that they were investigating the alleged use of live ammunition by the police.

"We are aware of the Lydenburg incident where police are alleged to have used live ammunition to disperse the crowd during a protest. We are investigating if the allegations are true," Sambo said.

"A postmortem that will be conducted at the Lydenburg Hospital at 8am tomorrow will give us a picture of the situation and we shall then start from there."

Superintendent Sibongile Nkosi, spokesperson for Mpumalanga's acting police commissioner Rex Machavi, defended her earlier statement that the police had used rubber bullets only.

"If live ammunition was used that will be investigated. In terms of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a member of the police is entitled to use force when circumstances are such that he or she is exposed to a life-threatening situation by a suspect or a crowd," Nkosi said yesterday.

She said the crowd had attacked the houses of at least two councillors and that of the mayor before attacking the policeman's house.

She said the police had arrested 20 people for public violence.

Eleven of those arrested were expected to appear in court yesterday but had not done so when the courts closed for the day.