A MENTALLY disabled woman in Bethelsdorp claims police shot her in the back of the head with a rubber bullet while she was “just hanging up the washing”.
Seven people were wounded when police fired more than 25 rubber bullets into a crowd of about 300 protesting against lack of service delivery in the area yesterday morning.
Four people were arrested in the protest, which comes only a week after mayhem erupted in the Northern Areas when thousands of residents from various communities in Kleinskool and Bethelsdorp blocked roads and burnt tyres.
Yesterday morning hundreds of residents from Bethelsdorp extension 32 and 37 barricaded Rensburg Street with building rubble and tyres, demanding to get their homes supplied with electricity.
Resident Rico Luckay said protesters were fed up with false promises being made by the municipality over the past three years.
“Over the years we have had many meetings and each time municipal officials make promises that never happen,” he said.
“The tactical response team arrived this morning and did not even give a warning – they just started shooting.”
Luckay said seven people were injured in the crossfire.
“The police started running around chasing people and just shooting anyone,” he said. “There was no need for it to be taken to this level – the municipality is using trigger-happy police to do their dirty work.”
Among those wounded was mentally disabled resident Collette Ruiters, who was shot in the back of the head.
“I was hanging my washing outside my house when the police came running and started shooting at me,” she said.
“I tried to run away but they chased and shot me at the back of my head.”
Community leader Jeremia Hamily said as soon as the municipality fulfilled its “empty promises”, the protest would stop.
“They do not want to give us lights and power even though it has been promised to us for more than three years,” he said. We do not want to protest and burn stuff, but the municipality has forced the situation to this level.”
Hamily said that they would continue with their protest “for however long it takes for us to get answers”.
“It is more than just electricity – our living conditions are dangerous to our families and the municipality promised to give us electricity so that we could get rid of the paraffin. We will continue with this protest unless the municipality gives us what they promised.”
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said the police would not tolerate “lawlessness” and that anyone who violated the law would be arrested.
“The police are going to restore public order in these problematic area,” he said. “Those who think they can take the law into their own hands will be reprimanded, arrested and charged accordingly.”
Labans claimed that a warning was given before the crowd was dispersed.
He confirmed that four protestors were arrested.
Municipal spokesman Ongama Mtimka said that they were aware of the protest and claimed that the municipality had taken action.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has incorporated the area in its service delivery plans although the communities there moved onto the site illegally – this was a land invasion,” he said.
Mtimka said he found it “rather strange” that the community would resort to picketing after officials had met with residents about two weeks ago
A “technical investigation” was under way to ascertain if land was suitable for people to live on and if so they would be included in the seven-year housing plan.