Durban police arrest 20 at protest over 9-year-old hijacking victims death
Community leaders in Chatsworth, south of Durban, have lambasted police for breaking up a seemingly peaceful protest, held after the death of 9-year-old hijacking victim Sadia Sukhraj.
The community came out in their numbers on Tuesday night after Sadia was killed in a botched hijacking at her home in Shallcross.
Her father, well-known pastor Shailendra Sukhraj, was with her when the incident happened and was alleged to have shot at the hijackers as they drove off with his daughter. They crashed into a truck shortly thereafter.
Police have arrested one suspect, a second was killed and a third is at large.
At least 20 people were arrested during Monday night's protest.
Bayview Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Brandon Pillay said he was "disturbed and disappointed at the reaction of the police".
"These were community [members who] were quite emotional after the death of this child. They decided to come there in an act of solidarity to her. They were saying that those responsible should be brought to justice. Instead of listening to an emotional and broken community, [police] tried to break them even more."
Pillay added that the police action could have resulted in more fatalities.
Police 'did not want to listen'
"There were thousands of people running around to get away from the violence. When you do these things, people fall, things happen. There could have been serious injuries or even more fatalities."
Pillay questioned who had initiated the response from the police.
"My concern [is] who instructed this kind of action. There was no threat on any lives – no violence, no need for this. It was not an unruly or threatening crowd. They were in solidarity, saying 'no' to the death of an innocent [child]."
However, he warned the community to remain calm.
"We must not let emotions run too high."
CPF chairperson for Chatsworth Jakes Singh said: "The event that unfolded last night was uncalled for.
"We welcome protests. We expect it to be a peaceful protest. When people protest, it is the last resort. People are crying for something. Unfortunately, the events unfolded very violently."
Singh added that the police "did not want to listen".
"In terms of crowd control, public order policing came and took control. It was sad and unfortunate."
Singh said those arrested during the protests would now be subjected to a court of law.
"That is going to be another issue on its own."
Police will 'act firmly'
But police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the protest was violent and added that at least 1 000 community members marched to the police station.
"They were burning tyres, blockaded the road and hurled objects at the station premises. Police had to use stun grenades to disperse the unruly crowd." Gwala called on community members to "exercise their right to protest peacefully by communicating their grievances in a peaceful manner". "There are community leaders within the community that must also be used by community members to engage in peaceful talks or meetings with SAPS. The protest of whatever nature should be conducted in a peaceful manner and within the rule of the law."
Gwala said police would "continue to act firmly against" any acts of violence.
"Police vehicles were also damaged during the violent protest last night. A total of 20 suspects were arrested last night for public violence. They will appear in the Chatsworth Magistrate's Court tomorrow."
The incident has also reached Parliament. Education Committee chairperson Nomalungelo Gina called for calm from the community.
"Let the police do their work and rather assist them in ensuring all perpetrators are punished accordingly," Gina said.
Credit: Kaveel Singh, News24
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