Angry residents attack off-duty cop ‘We’d rather die than live here’

17 08 2009

August 17, 2009 Edition 1 – Cape Argus
KOWTHAR SOLOMONS and FRANCIS HWESHE

AN OFF-duty policeman who was attacked and beaten over the head with a large rock by protesting Khayelitsha residents is in a serious but stable condition in hospital, police said this morning.

The officer, whose name police have declined to release, was attacked when he tried to drive through a barricade erected by residents of BT Section, Site C, Khayelitsha yesterday.

He is stationed in Stellenbosch, and was off-duty and not in uniform at the time.

Police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters late last week, but angry residents took to the streets again at the weekend.

Residents in BT Section started protesting on Thursday night.

Street committee spokeswoman Nosisa Mgoduka said the residents were angry with mayor Dan Plato.

She said Plato had promised to move the community to a piece of land where there were services.

“On (last) Monday he said there was no place for us.

“He said that he would look for a place for us in the next six months.

“That is what angered people. Police have also said that they are going to kill us if we keep protesting.

“We would rather be killed by police while protesting than live in this place. It’s not safe here. We want a better place,” said Mgoduka.

Yesterday the section of busy Lansdowne Road that runs through the area was barricaded with an empty shipping container and strewn with litter.

Protesters stoned passing cars and dug trenches in the road. Rocks and cardboard were used to make barricades.

Tempers flared when the off-duty officer, driving a Fiat Cento, tried to drive through part of the barricade. He lost control of the car and crashed into the pavement.

Residents surrounded the car while the policeman and his passenger, who has not been identified, tried to start it.

Angry words were exchanged, and the policeman pulled out a gun.

This made the residents back off at first, but then they raced back to confront him again.

A struggle ensued, and the police officer was knocked unconscious.

Residents started assaulting the man and his gun was taken away.

As he regained consciousness and tried to get up off the ground, one resident picked up a rock and slammed it into the policeman’s head and upper back.

He collapsed again. His companion, bleeding from the forehead after also being attacked by protesters, fled into an alleyway between nearby houses.

Police who were stationed nearby managed to get to the unconscious officer, who was taken away from the area in an ambulance.

Plato said this morning that “violence and other forms of intimidation” would not be tolerated.

He said residents of BT Section should use the city council’s “existing political structures” – such as ward councillors and ward forums – to air their concerns.

The area was quiet this morning.

* Additional reporting by Murray Williams

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