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South African Protesters Attack Police Houses During Riot

South African police said rioters were “out of control” as they tried to burn down officers’ houses, attacked cars and blocked roads with burning tires.

Policemen, including those brought in from three other towns, tried to disperse the protesters in Sasolburg, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Johannesburg, with rubber bullets, water cannons and teargas, Lebohang Mareletse said by phone today. The riot was triggered on Jan. 20 by plans to redraw the area’s municipal boundaries that will result in its merging with a neighboring council, she said.

“We are worried about our own houses,” Mareletse said. “They are going to our houses, they are trying to burn our houses. They’re out of control.”

The ruling African National Congress called for calm in Zamdela township in Sasolburg, where three policemen were injured yesterday in protests by as many as 5,000 residents.

“The ANC respects the rights of all residents to raise their view on any matter that affects them,” the party said in an e-mailed statement. “However, we are against any form of violence, intimidation and destruction of public and private property.”

South Africa last year had a record 173 major protests over poor delivery of municipal services, more than twice the number a year earlier, according to Johannesburg-based research group Municipal IQ. In August, police opened fire on thousands of striking mineworkers at Lonmin Plc’s Marikana mine, killing 34 protesters in South Africa’s deadliest police action since the end of apartheid.

A refinery operated by Sasol Ltd. in the town wasn’t affected by the violence, Mareletse said.

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