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Sasolburg brimming with anger as protesters regroup

Staff Reporter

About 2 000 protesters with rocks have gathered at a stadium in Sasolburg following violent demonstrations against a recent municipal demarcation.

Sasolburg demonstrators burnt debris in the streets in protest of new municipal demarcations. (Gallo)

Police would not confirm whether two protesters had died after violent clashes between police and protesters in Zamdela on Tuesday.

A bakkie filled with protesters made its through police barricade, between Zamdela Stadium and Sasolburg Refinery.

All occupants of the car were seriously injured with one claiming police shot at him with live ammunition. 

Several hundred protesters surrounded the Zamdela police station and attempted to set the station alight. More police were sent to clear the area around the police station, while a running battle ensued between police and protesters on the streets of Zamdela.

Earlier on Tuesday, a protester threatened a South African Press Association (Sapa) journalist with a knife and other journalists' cars were pelted with rocks while they waited  for Free State Premier Ace Magashule to arrive in the area.

"A man in his mid-20s, who wore a colourful bandana and no shirt, approached me and asked why I was shooting [footage] and that I should stop," said Sapa cameraman Vumani Mkhize.

He was at the Moses Kotane Stadium in Zamdela, in the Free State, the scene of violent protests over the past few days.

"I ignored him and the man again said that I should only start shooting when Ace Magashule arrives. He then pulled out a knife in full view of the crowd. I picked up my camera equipment and started to walk away.

"He then walked towards me and asked to look at my equipment. I ignored him and walked away." The protester then left Mkhize alone.

Police also confirmed on Tuesday that a station in Zamdela, Sasolburg had been set alight, and a Telkom office was also on fire.

No school
Some residents carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they waited for Minister of Cooperative Governance Richard Baloyi to arrive and address them at the stadium. A group inside the stadium sang and chanted struggle songs.

Children said they had been told not to go to school. Some said they had gone, but their teachers were not there.

Roads in the area were covered with burnt debris on Tuesday. A police helicopter hovered overhead to keep a watch on protesters.

Police said on Tuesday morning that 187 people had been arrested since Sunday in the protests, which were apparently about plans to merge Sasolburg with the Ngwathe local municipality, under which Parys falls.

Constable Peter Kareli said no violence was reported on Monday night.

On Monday, protesters set two trucks alight and injured two police officers inside a nyala (armoured vehicle), which became stuck in mud.

Water cannons and rubber bullets were used to disperse the crowd. Some residents barricaded roads and threw stones at police cars. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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