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South African Police Shoot at Residents, Killing 1, Wounding 16

March 5, 1995

MANENBERG, South Africa (AP) _ A confrontation with a Cape Town gang deteriorated into a melee in which police fired on residents, including women and children. One person was killed and at least 16 were wounded.

Maj. Dirk Mentoor, station commander in Cape Town’s Manenberg township, said on Sunday that an internal investigation had been launched into the incident.

Mentoor said a group of police reservists and officers stopped several young men they believed were on their way to a gang fight Saturday evening. The men allegedly threw stones at the police, who opened fire with tear gas, pistols, shotguns and automatic rifles, Mentoor said.

Errol MacLean, 23, was killed.

``The question is, how could the police tell these gangsters were on the way to a fight? And if they were attacked with stones, why did they use live ammunition?″ Mentoor said.

Residents said the officers then went on a rampage, shooting people in at least four apartment complexes and along three roads. The 16 wounded ranged in age from 9 to 46, according to hospital reports.

Fatima Allie, 40, was shot in the face. She said she and several friends, fearful their children were in danger, left her apartment and went into the street when they heard the shooting.

`All the ladies were telling the police that they were wrong to shoot. The police jumped into the van, and as the van drove away, they just started shooting,″ she said.

The incident threatened to destroy a spirit of cooperation that only recently replaced suspicion and hostility between Manenberg residents and the police, said community leader Faggie Johnson.

Police long distrusted for enforcing apartheid were struggling to build confidence among black and mixed-race South Africans and bring down rising crime rates.

Manenberg, where most residents are mixed-race, is a densely populated, low-income area troubled by gang fighting. Some 45 different gangs operate in the township.

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