Po­lice fire at protest­ing David­sonville res­i­dents

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHERNICK ilanit.chernick@inl.co.za

CHAOS reigned as run­ning bat­tles be­tween po­lice and protest­ing David­sonville res­i­dents in Rood­e­poort con­tin­ued yes­ter­day.

Burn­ing tyres and de­bris blocked the streets as rub­ber bul­lets, rocks, tear­gas and petrol bombs were ex­changed.

Res­i­dents said they were protest­ing over the lack of hous­ing in the area and no­ti­fi­ca­tions that their homes would be cut off from wa­ter and elec­tric­ity. “We will not be cut off. This is a no-cut-off zone – they can’t cut us off,” said one res­i­dent, who iden­ti­fied her­self only as Klara.

“It’s wrong. We were protest­ing calmly and the po­lice just started fir­ing at us. We blocked the streets calmly. They ag­gra­vate us and then it gets vi­o­lent.”

The res­i­dents said they want the DA ward coun­cil­lor for the area, Renee Ben­jamin, to ad­dress them, oth­er­wise the protest would con­tinue and they would go to her house.

At least six peo­ple were ar­rested as po­lice ran into the area af­ter a petrol bomb was thrown at a Nyala that was try­ing to un­block a road.

“This will be an­other Marikana. Watch what will hap­pen,” one man shouted at the po­lice.

Some groups stood on mine dumps next to the town­ship and pelted rocks and glass at po­lice of­fi­cers as they en­tered.

In a bid to force the groups of youths down from the mine dumps, the po­lice shot rub­ber bul­lets at them.

Com­mu­nity leader El­ton van Rens­burg said it had been a peace­ful ser­vice de­liv­ery protest “un­til (rub­ber bul­let) rounds were fired at us”.

“Peo­ple are re­tal­i­at­ing with stones, but for the cops to go on top of the mine dumps and shoot from there is to­tally un­ac­cept­able. It’s like tar­get prac­tice,” he said.

Van Rens­burg was later shot and in­jured in the head with a rub­ber bul­let as po­lice were aim­ing at rock throw­ers on the mine dumps. As the crowd pushed for­ward, tear­gas and flash bangs were used to push them down the main road road and back into the res­i­den­tial area. This con­tin­ued un­til the ward coun­cil­lor ar­rived.

Ben­jamin lis­tened to the com­mu­nity’s griev­ances and re­it­er­ated that the pre-ter­mi­na­tion no­tices were sent out in er­ror due to the cur­rent billing cri­sis. “Their con­cern was that they would have their wa­ter and elec­tric­ity cut off, but there is a no dis­con­nec­tion pol­icy for David­sonville. This means that they can­not be ter­mi­nated.”

Ben­jamin added that one of the is­sues res­i­dents are deeply con­cerned about is il­le­gal dump­ing. She as­sured them that their hous­ing con­cerns were be­ing dealt with, that there was avail­abil­ity and she had been in meet­ings with the MEC for hu­man set­tle­ments and Depart­ment of Hous­ing.

“There are 44 on the list and I am wait­ing for hous­ing to give me their names.”

The com­mu­nity gave Ben­jamin 24 hours to re­spond.

“We are sick and tired of this s**t. We’ve been wait­ing 25 years and will not wait any longer. No more empty prom­ises,” shouted one woman.

As the crowd be­gan to dis­perse, youths be­gan throwing rocks again at po­lice from the mine dumps. Po­lice re­tal­i­ated once more with rub­ber bul­lets The group later dis­persed but vowed to re­sume their protest if their de­mands were not met.

‘We’ve waited 25 years and will wait no longer’

PIC­TURE: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI

TEAR­GAS AND RUB­BER BUL­LETS: Res­i­dents of David­sonville in Rood­e­poort clash with po­lice yes­ter­day.

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