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Claims of police brutality in Zamdela

Residents of Zamdela are cleaning up the streets which were messed up during their protests.

Police officers pass a burnt out truck in the Zamdela informal settlement in Sasolburg after residents went on the rampage on 21 January 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

SASOLBURG - More claims on Thursday are emerging of police brutality during a crackdown on protests in the Zamdela township near Sasolburg in the Free State.

Residents were angered by the planned merger of two municipalities this week and retaliated by causing violent protests.

Protesters burned buildings and cars and looted local businesses.

Police said two people died, but various reports suggest there were more deaths.

Since Sunday, 256 people were arrested for public violence, 10 of which have been let off with a warning.

The rest remain in custody and are due to appear in court next week.

For now calm has been restored and the protests abated after Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi announced on Tuesday that the merger of the municipalities has temporarily been put on hold.

Residents began cleaning up the streets that were trashed by them and also tended to those injured during scuffles with police.

Police are maintaining a very high and intensified presence in the township to prevent any groups from gathering.

A resident was hopeful people would be able to return to work now that protests seem to have come to an end.

"If people want to protest they must not burn and destroy things that belong to us. Right now we need those things that have been destroyed [sic]."

Residents remain divided on whether to continue with protest action or to return to work.

A man said most of the locals at one section of the township have decided to go to work on Thursday.

"We have decided we will protect residents on their way to work."

Police said they recovered majority of the goods which were looted during demonstrations.

But some of the shops have been so badly damaged that residents are fearing they'll face a food shortage.