Police fire rubber bullets as Ennerdale protests persist

Ennerdale Protests
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Police have fired rubber bullets at protestors in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg. The protests form part of a total shutdown against gangsterism and other crimes.

The organisers of the protests in Ennerdale and Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, say they will continue with protest action until President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng Premier David Makhura pledge action against crime, gangsterism and the economic exclusion of South Africa’s coloured communities.

The protests started after a Westbury mother,  Heather Peterson, was fatally shot and her 10-year-old niece wounded after being caught in the crossfire during an alleged gang shootout.

As calm was restored in Ennerdale following earlier unrest, protests flared up in the neighbouring community of Eldorado Park.

Residents of Ennerdale say drugs are too freely available while the police turn a blind eye to drug dealers.

One woman, a resident, feels hopeless because she has reported the matter a number of times.

“It’s because I live next door, in the street of drug lords, and the saddest thing of all is how many times have I went to the police and the very same police that I go to I see them come and collect their share of money. We live with girls; we live with young children and we are just not safe. So, my only thing is who do we go to because even the police are not going to help us? The drug lords have the police in their pockets.”

Additional police and metro police officers were deployed when protests spread from Ennerdale, spilling over onto the N12 Highway.

The road has since been re-opened to traffic.

The police’s Kay Makhubele says residents must not disrupt the lives of law-abiding citizens, and if they are unhappy with the police, this should be reported through the correct channels.

“Our job is to maintain law and order. If people have complains they must report them at the police stations. If they feel that they don’t get joy from the Client Service Centre, they must report them to the station commander, as well as the cluster commander. And the provincial commander’s door is open. And we are calling them to report all the allegations and we believe those allegations will be investigated.”

Makhubele says community tip-offs are taken seriously. He says it’s through such tip-offs that they managed to arrest a third suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of Heather Peterson.  Her death sparked widespread protests in Westbury against crime and drug related violence, with other predominantly coloured communities protesting in solidarity.

Anthony Williams, from a group calling itself the Gauteng Shutdown Co-ordinating Committee, says the situation is now about more than just Peterson’s case, and needs to address systemic imbalances.

“We already achieved the attention of the government. We are going to continue the offensive against the state until these guys sit around the table and have an honest discussion with us and give us an undertaking to look into the serious issues plaguing our community. Westbury is coming online; Noordgesig has come online. So, we are going to keep rolling it out across the communities until the premier and the president listen to us.”

For this reason, he says they do not view Friday’s shutdown as a failure, even though only two of the 10 communities who promised to join in participated.

Police will continue to monitor the situation in areas at risk of unrest.

Residents of Ennerdale have added their voices to those of Westbury in standing against drugs, gangsterism and crime in their communities. They say drugs are too freely available while the police turn a blind eye on drug dealers.