‘Police fired rubber bullets without provocation’


Vinesa Paile hops from her bedroom to the living room. After lowering herself gingerly into a chair, she tells the story behind her bandaged knee.

“I was just standing on the pavement, looking at what was happening,” Paile says.

Paile is one of several Noordgesig, Soweto, residents still wincing a day after violent service delivery protests.

Police fired rubber bullets at the protesters, but official and community accounts of the situation differ widely.

SAPS provincial spokeswoman Captain Katlego Mogale said on Wednesday night that police had fired only after protesters had targeted motorists.

“If there is a service delivery protest and the protesters are throwing stones at motorists, the police will use the necessary force to disperse them.”

But several injured residents, five of whom were interviewed by The Star, say police fired without provocation.

The protest started on Wednesday afternoon as a blackout in the neighbourhood entered its second day.

Residents said they had experienced day-long power outages for weeks, and demanding action, they set fire to branches and tyres on the neighbourhood’s main street.

But Paile, a 47-year-old hairdresser, says the people she was with hadn’t thrown rocks. Not knowing what was about to happen, they stood their ground as police approached.

“Why must you run if you didn’t do anything?” she asks.

She says the police started shooting without warning. She felt like her knee was on fire and she felt blood trickling down her leg.

Michael Williams, 47, was hit by three bullets.

Williams says the people he was with had not thrown rocks before police started firing.

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