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Gauteng hit by more violent protests

The province has been hit by an average of six protests a day over the past three months.

FILE: Protesters in Hebron blocked major roads with rocks and burning tyres during service delivery protests on 7 February. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A fresh round of violent service delivery protests have flared up in Gauteng.

Police have arrested a man who allegedly opened fire on a group of residents protesting in the Refilwe Township near Cullinan, east of Pretoria, wounding two people.

The man, who is a foreign national, apparently started shooting at a crowd of protesters as he fled the township this morning.

Several foreign-owned shops were torched by residents overnight.

It is believed the demonstrations were sparked by the death of a 10-year-old boy, who was badly beaten for allegedly stealing sweets.

The police's Marrisa van der Merwe says the man of Pakistani origin was arrested this morning when he was trying to get out of the area.

"He was firing shots towards the protesters," says van der Merwe.

ZANDSPRUIT

In the Zandspruit informal settlement, it's understood around 100 residents began demonstrating on the corner of Peter Road and Beyers Naude Drive yesterday after police removed illegally built shacks on the edge of the township.

Tyres were burnt and roads blockaded during a protest over housing.

Authorities say the residents had built their shacks too close to the road.

The police's Doniah Mothutsane says the situation there has been brought under control.

"The situation is stable. Police are still on the scene and the roads are still closed."

BEKKERSDAL

Residents of Bekkersdal will today begin repairing their local clinic which was badly damaged during violent community protests last year.

The area has been the site of violent service delivery protests for a number of months, with residents demanding the municipality be dissolved due to poor service delivery.

A voter registration drive was also disrupted in the area two weeks ago.

The Gauteng provincial government has assembled a high-level task team to deal with violent service delivery protests.

The province has been hit by an average of six protests a day over the past three months and one in five has turned violent.

PROTESTERS WANT TO BE HEARD

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Johannesburg has shown that people who burn down property during service delivery protests are trying to get government's attention.

A study on service delivery protest titled _The Rebellion of the Poor _has dismissed the common perception that protesters are unthinking thugs who burn down public property for the sake of it.

The study looked at 2,220 service delivery protests between 2004 and 2013 and found that there was a lot of thought that goes into these protests.

The university's Trevor Ngwane said the protesters want their voices to be heard.

"There's a tendency to look at protesters as wild people or thugs. So I decided to look into the people who protest. What are their goals? I found that protesters can be viewed as the intended beneficiaries of post-apartheid new South Africa. It is their way of constructing and shaping the new South Africa."

Last week, President Jacob Zuma attributed the increase in service delivery protests to the successes of the government.

He said a minority was getting impatient after seeing other communities receiving services.

Ngwane said Zuma is trying to put a spin on the problem.