SA police fire buckshot at township rioters


South African police fired buckshot to disperse township rioters who threw stones and looted shops to protest over poor housing and lack of rail services.

Hundreds of people in the Phomolong township near the South African capital Pretoria blocked roads with rocks and burning tyres, in the latest attempt to persuade the government to supply much-needed infrastructure.

Scores of similar protests have taken place across the country in the past two months in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid-era.
“People have been trying to use formal ways with government, but been given a cold shoulder, so protests are just the best thing they can respond to,” a protester told Reuters, before being chased away by a blast of buckshot.

Police Captain Johas Mahesu said the situation in Phomolong was under control, but his force would monitor the area.
“It’s hard to tell what will happen next because it’s on and off, but we have a strong contingency,” he said.

Cape Town police said four bus drivers were slightly injured when their buses were stoned during a strike by minibus taxi operators in the city.

Police attacked

Police also detailed an ambush on a police armoured vehicle in Ogies in Mpumalanga province on Saturday, which they said had been completely gutted after a group of protesters hurled several petrol bombs at the vehicle carrying 10 riot policemen.

The police officers had to fight their way out of the ambush, using live ammunition, in the worst attack on police since the protests first flared this year.

The protests are expected to intensify ahead of the soccer World Cup being held in Africa for the first time from June 11-July 11, because of the increased media attention focussed on South Africa.

Many poor black South Africans complain that their lives have not improved since the ruling African National Congress (ANC) swept to power in 1994, promising to provide jobs, housing and medical care for all.

Despite a decade of strong economic growth up to 2009, official unemployment has remained above 20 % and millions of blacks still live in shantytowns with little access to running water, sanitation or electricity.

Abdul Hassan, chairman of the Somali Association of South Africa, said some of the foreign-owned shops in Phomolong had been looted by protesters.
“They are targeting foreigners because we are the weaker link in the community, so they hit us to get government attention,” he said.

More than 60 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in a wave of anti-foreigner riots that swept across the country in 2008.

On Sunday, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe called for an end to the violent protests, which have become an almost daily occurrence in poor black townships and shantytowns in the past two months.

President Jacob Zuma, who promised to improve the lives of the poor while campaigning for election last April, is facing an uphill battle to deliver on those promises soon after South Africa emerged from its first recession in 17 years.

Pic: SAPS memeber firing rubber bullets at protesters