POLICE fire at PROTESTERS
PROTESTS over service delivery took yet another ugly turn yesterday when angry residents of OG village in Daantjie nearNelspruit barricaded roads, demanding tarred roads.
When Sowetan arrived at the scene minutes after the violence had started, residents, mostly youths, were throwing stones at the police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets.
The scene was similar to those at Mashishing near Lydenburg, Thandukukhanya near Piet Retief and in Balfour in the eastern Highveld of Mpumalanga in recent months.
The residents of OG village, most of whom hail from Mozambique, first went to the local bus depot and blocked the gates,saying no bus should leave the premises.
Government officials sent by the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs held a meeting with the community but before they could finish, unruly youths disrupted the meeting.
People who spoke to Sowetan have accused the police of "provoking the residents by shooting at them for no apparent reason".
"We were in a peaceful meeting when the police arrived.
"They apparently did not even know that we were meeting with officials from the government as they started firing rubber bullets at the crowd, so we had to defend ourselves with stones," said Njeti Nkambule, a member of the community.
Police arrested more than 10 people, including a man who is said to be mentally disturbed and a teenaged schoolgirl, for public violence.
A civilian and a policeman were injured during the clashes. But it was not immediately clear what could have injured them.
KaNyamazane police spokesperson Inspector Andries Shikwambane said the injured were taken to the local hospital.
MEC for public works, roads and transport Clifford Mkasi, who arrived later, managed to restore order when he told the community that their plight would be addressed urgently.
MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs Norman Mokoena said while the government respected the people's right to voice their concerns through protests, such protests should be within the ambit of the law.
"We are giving this matter serious attention and are treating it as a top priority as we have done in all the other areas where there have been problems," said Mokoena.
He said the government would not tolerate acts of violence and destruction to property. "I appeal for restraint and calm from all the people," Mokoena said.