Woman Shot Dead in Durban Housing Protest

Durban - One woman was killed and two police officers were attacked during a housing protest in Cato Manor, Durban on Monday morning.

Local police received a report that the community had blockaded Bellair Road and two officers were dispatched to the scene at around 4am.

When the officers arrived they could not get through the blockade and they then used Harcomb Gardens Road. When they entered the road they found a mob of about 500 people waiting for them in an ambush.

"They threw stones, broke vehicle windows [and] opened the doors in an attempt to remove officers from their vehicle," said police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker.

During the scuffle, police also heard gunshots emanating from the mob. "They then fired shots at the group and the mob scattered in all directions allowing the two police officers to reverse their vehicle and return to the police station to get back-up," said Naicker.

When police reinforcements returned to scene, they found that two females had been injured in the shootout. One was taken to hospital while the second one was confirmed dead on the scene.

Naicker said two dockets have been opened - one for public violence and one for murder. One arrest has already been made.

The arrested suspect is believed to have been part of the mob that ambushed the police officers. "At this stage it is not known whose bullets hit the two women - it's all part of our investigation," he said.

The area of Cato Manor has been plagued by violent protests in recent months. Many protesters have been arrested for public violence.

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni condemned the attack on police officers.

"It is regrettable that the violent protest led to the loss of life but our police officers will protect themselves when they are attacked or ambushed and perpetrators of such violent protests will be arrested and prosecuted," she said.

She said police acknowledge and respect that the public has a constitutional right to demonstrate but the police also have a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order. "Violent protests are not acceptable and the police have the responsibility to protect property and lives during these violent protests."

She warned would-be protesters that the police will use necessary force to execute their constitutional mandate.

Bhekisisa Mncube

- SAnews.gov.za