24 January 2013

South Africa: Four Killed in Sasolburg Protest

Photo: SABC Digital News
Police on alert in Sasolburg.

Johannesburg — Free State police have revised the death toll in Sasolburg protests to four from two.

Differing deaths tolls have been reported by the media, but Colonel Motantsi Makhele insisted on Thursday that the official death toll was four. He said all four died in hospital on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, the police reported that two people had been killed -one of them at the Zamdela police station.

The circumstances of the second death were not clear: initially police said a motorist shot dead a protester on Tuesday, but on Wednesday Makhele said a shop owner killed this protester.

On Thursday, Makhele denied saying this. He said two people had been shot dead -- one by a shop owner and one by a motorist.

He said another two protesters - and not one as initially reported --died after being shot at the Zamdela police station during a clash with protesters.

This brought the official death toll to four - two protesters shot dead at the police station, one shot dead by a motorist, and one shot dead by a shop owner, said Makhele.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said earlier this week it would investigate the shooting at the police station.

Makhele said police were awaiting post mortem reports and the outcome of their investigations to determine whether those killed died as a result of protest-related activity or unrelated, criminal acts.

Earlier, Constable Peter Kareli said a house was stoned and a construction site was set alight in apparent criminal attacks in Sasolburg on Wednesday night.

"It appeared to be criminally motivated: people taking an opportunity," he said.

The motive for the attack on the house was not known, as it was not owned by a municipal official, he said.

"About 12 or 13 people started throwing stones at the house, then they ran away." No one was injured.

On Thursday morning, residents began returning to work after recent protests over municipal demarcation.

"Everything is under control, although the situation is still tense," Kareli said.

Residents started protesting on Sunday in opposition to the proposed merger, in 2016, of the Matsimaholo municipality in Sasolburg with the Ngwathe municipality, under which Parys falls.

Co-operative Governance and Public Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi announced on Tuesday that the merger would not immediately go ahead.

Kareli said that late on Wednesday afternoon residents, of their own volition, began to clean up the debris left on the streets after the protest.

"We are still going to have a lot of police officials in the area until we are convinced that the situation is calm," he said.

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