South African police fire rubber bullets at protestors

AFP , Tuesday 15 Feb 2011

South African police and protesters in aggressive face-off

South African police on Tuesday fired rubber bullets at petrol bomb-throwing protestors who also burned tyres, hurled stones and barricaded streets over poor government services.

"We have been firing (at) them since yesterday to diffuse the groups that are being formed by the protestors because they are burning tyres, barricading roads with stones and they are on rampage," spokesman Leonard Hlathi told AFP.

"They're also throwing petrol bombs at the police and everything," he said of the violence in the coal-mining and forestry town of Ermelo, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) east of Johannesburg.

South Africa routinely sees violent protests in its shantytowns as residents demand better housing and services like water and electricity.

"The situation here is so bad that you can't actually contain it," the police spokesman said. "It's volatile. So that's why we need to apply whatever method we are having to diffuse the groups."

A television cameraman from private station was hurt and a broadcast van badly damaged in the protests, according to the station.

"The reason why they (the journalists) were pelted with stones is that the groups were actually fighting with the police and they happened to be caught between the police and the community members," said Hlathi.

Police have arrested 33 people for the protests since Monday.

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