Phoenix residents accuse police of misconduct in water protest

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Some community members in Phoenix, north of Durban, say they were treated unfairly by police during a peaceful protest held last week. The residents were protesting about long-standing water supply issues.

Protesters stood at six major intersections across the township on January 29, blocking off motorways.

While the protest action began peacefully, matters later escalated, resulting in police using stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets to control protesters.

Civic organization, Voice of Phoenix spokesperson, Pastor Mervyn Reddy, says the force used by the police to control the crowd was unnecessary.

“When the peaceful protesters were standing there and venting their anger and frustration, somebody let off a tear gas canister in the midst of the crowd while the crowd was standing there. When that happened, chaos ensued. We were told the police started pushing the protesters, and rubber bullets were fired upon peaceful protesters. Some of the protesters were injured by the firing of rubber bullets, by a crowd out there just venting their frustration for not having running water”.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson, Colonel Robert Netshiunda, says the methods of crowd control used in the Phoenix water crisis protests were the same methods used across the country during marches that escalated.

“There were no incidents reported in the morning, but as the day progressed, protesters blockaded roads. All the entrances and exits to Phoenix were blockaded. If you protest for water, you have no right to block the roads, and that’s infringing on others’ rights. Those not protesting want to go to work, and schools must have free access. We are not against the protest, but we want the roads to be opened.”