Scores of angry Eersterust residents gathered outside the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court yesterday to protest the arrests of some of their own for violence when the township burned last week.
For three days, the furious community burned tyres as they demanded houses, claiming the city had neglected them when it came to service delivery.
On Thursday, the local police station was ambushed and attacked. Several items, including a service pistol, were stolen. A total of 19 people were arrested soon after.
Angry residents gathered outside the court to show support for their detained neighbours, stating the police picked suspects at random and targeted the youth.
The family of the youngest, Kimmal Williams, claimed his innocence, along with friends and families of other suspects.
Williams’ aunt, Odile Williams, told The Citizen yesterday her nephew was not part of the suspected mob, as he was at home and not in possession of any stolen items.
“They arrested the wrong people. Now they say they are being charged with theft, but when we went to Kimmal, we found him sitting at home and he had nothing in his possession.
“The police are just picking up children from the street and saying it’s them. No one saw them doing this, but now they are charged,” Williams said.
“Our child has no criminal record and has not been in court before. Now he is in a prison cell with people who committed serious crimes.”
The 19 appeared in court yesterday, but only seven of them, including Williams, were charged.
According to the charge sheet, Williams, Rory Herrings, Lee Herrings and Adriaan Meyer were charged with theft, while Chase Kruger and Jeandry Williams faced charges of public violence. Marcel Moses was found in possession of an unlicensed firearm, but it was not the stolen one.
Police spokesperson Colonel Brenda denied claims that police picked people at random, saying the arrests come after a crime intelligence operation launched shortly after the police station was attacked.
“There was an overnight operation immediately after the station was attacked, where the national police commissioner gave a 72- hour reaction plan.
“This included specialised units. We don’t go out and pick anyone we come across. Three of those suspects were found in possession of stolen property from when shops were looted during the protest.”
The stolen service pistol had not been recovered, Moridili said.