‘Police harassment’ in Phase 7

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Residents Ntswaki Sello and Thandeka Mokhali being approached by two police officers, in what seemed like an attempt to intimidate them on Monday in Phase 7. PHOTO: PIERCE VAN HEERDEN

Ntswaki Sello and Thandeka Mokhali, who were innocently watching the drama of the service delivery protests at the Dewetsdorp Road unfold on Monday morning, were targeted by the police in full view of, among others, Bloemfontein Courant photographer, Pierce van Heerden.
“We were just standing there watching everything that was happening around us and they were passing by. As they passed us, they said we should leave because they did not come there for ‘dirty things’ like us and began swearing at us. We responded to their remarks, and that’s when they pointed their weapons at us and told us not to talk to them like that,” Sello said.
Following a verbal exchange between the two women and three police officers, the officers moved closer to the women, as if to intimidate them. However, the women stood their ground. The altercation ended shortly thereafter when the officers walked away from the women.
Residents of Phase 6 and Phase 7, which are alongside the old Dewetsdorp road that leads to Grootvlei Prison, barricaded roads with rocks and burning tyres on Monday morning in a desperate attempt to reach their councillor, whom they say is full of empty promises and does not communicate well with his community members.
Community members said they had requested meetings with their councillor several times, to no avail and they had reached a point where they were angry and felt like they were taken for granted by their councillor.

These two police officers grabbed this man, who was with two female bystanders. Two women pleaded on his behalf, saying he did not do anything. Following the pleas of the two women, the police officers then let the man go and told him that they were not here to play with Phase 7 residents and where necessary, they would “Teach them the Law”. PHOTOS: Pierce van Heerden

Still at the scene of the protest, but in an unrelated incident, Van Heerden and fellow journalist, Pulane Choane, saw a few policemen chasing a man believed to be one of the main figures in the protests. The man was captured by two policemen, who violently held him down, with one kicking him as the other was holding him down onto the grass. They then threw him into a police vehicle, which drove off.
Police spokesperson, Peter Kareli, said he did not believe the allegations of police brutality against the protesters. “As police officers, we don’t arrest people using force unless we get resistance from the people. Only then do we use force,” he said.
Kareli confirmed that 11 people, all males between the ages of 18 and 39, were arrested and will appear at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court soon.
“All we are asking for, is that they provide us with decent electricity. Some places here are dangerous for us because the people without electricity have now made their own electricity connections. We are also asking for a school because, as you can see, many children here are not at school because schools are far away and we don’t have the money to take them to these schools as many of us do not have jobs,” one resident said.

Pulane Choane 
pulane@centralmediagroup.co.za