Port Elizabeth – Several protesters were injured when police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse about 50 people picketing outside the Zonke Superspar in NU9, Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, GroundUp reported on Monday.
“The police used excessive force,” one of the protesters, Thomas Marobobo, said.
“We were very peaceful and no one even provoked them. We did not close the shop. We even allowed shoppers to go into the shop. But the police decided to use rubber bullets.”
The protest, on Friday, was against the retailer’s decision to secure its premises with a perimeter fence, which closed the path residents used to get to the taxi rank.
Marobobo said their protest started on Thursday, after negotiations with the Spar’s management yielded no results. They had asked management to leave an opening at the back so people could access other services at the centre without having to walk through a disused park.
Residents protest outside Zonke Spar in Motherwell. (Joseph Chirume, GroundUp)
“Many people have been robbed in this park since the shop closed the walkway.”
Police spokesperson Constable Mncedi Mbombo said they used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd when protesters became violent.
“They were also affecting the peace of innocent residents who wanted to buy their groceries in the shop. No one was arrested.”
Siyabulela Cikolo was hit by rubber bullets. (Thomas Marobobo, GroundUp)
Marobobo appealed to Spar management to reconsider its decision to keep the pathway closed. Local business owners should discourage crime in the area.
“We will continue engaging with Spar, even if it means a complete shutdown of the shop.”
A Zonke Spar manager, who did not want to identify himself, did not want to comment and said it was a case of public disorder.