Mail & Guardian

Police accused of looting during Sasolburg protest

23 Jan 2013 13:43 | Sapa

Police are alleged to have taken part in looting stores during the protest. (Gallo)

Police are alleged to have taken part in looting stores during the protest. (Gallo)

"If I had a camera, I would have taken photos. They took stuff in one Chinese shop and the community followed," said a security guard at a municipal office.

"At Save Right [a local shop near the police station] they even advised us not to injure each other, and when the ATM was robbed, their van was nearby."

The 32-year-old man claimed that Sasolburg police were also unhappy about the proposed merger of the Ngwathe and Metsimaholo local municipalities.

He said this was evident in Tuesday's shooting, in which two people died and others were wounded when police from other provinces were deployed.

"We protested on Sunday [and] no one was wounded or died; we did it again on Monday ... [there were] no injuries we heard about. So why are people being shot at when there is police from other provinces?"

Earlier in the week, police from Gauteng and Welkom were deployed in the area to help control the situation.

Police spokesperson Colonel Motantsi Makhele said he was aware of the allegations that police were among the looters. "People must come to the front if they have information," he said. "We welcome anyone who has information so that we can investigate this."

Resident Nthako (47) said he was happy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi had announced that the process of merging the municipalities had been stopped.

However, Nthako criticised government officials for not arriving at Moses Kotane Stadium where residents had expected to be addressed on the matter at 10am on Tuesday.

Residents ran out of patience and left the stadium at 11am.

"If they came to the stadium and addressed people, no one would have died or got injured," Nthako said. A protester was shot dead at the Zamdela police station during a clash with protesters on Tuesday.

Sticks and stones
Earlier in the day, police said another protester was shot dead by a motorist after a group of protesters tried to block his way. Nine people, two of them police officers, have been injured since the protest started on Sunday.

A Jacaranda radio journalist's car was pelted with stones and a South African Press Association cameraperson was threatened with a knife, also on Tuesday. The situation was quiet on Wednesday and police were seen patrolling the area and taking photographs of damaged properties on the main road.

Three police nyalas [armoured vehicles] were seen driving around in the area while a helicopter hovered overhead. Lucky Malebo, a community leader, said people had gone to hospital to check on the  wounded.

"A list of those who were injured and those who died is being compiled, and we might get it around 3pm," he said. Malebo said the residents had wanted to hold a meeting at the stadium on Wednesday, but could not apply for permission as no one was on duty at the council. – Sapa

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