Shot in the face over water, Phoenix protester to join legal battle against police

Urasha Ramsunker, 44, from Phoenix, was shot in the face by police during the protest on Monday. Picture: Supplied

Urasha Ramsunker, 44, from Phoenix, was shot in the face by police during the protest on Monday. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 2, 2024


Forty-four-year-old Urasha Rasmsunker and her son Sasheen from Eastbury in Phoenix decided to join Monday’s protest over the constant water outages in northern parts of the eThekwini Municipality, but had no idea she was going to be shot in the face.

Ramsunker and her son live near the Shell Garage, just off the Phoenix Highway and were joining others at the Trade Centre where the protest took place between 4.30am and 8.30am.

Sasheen Ramsunker spoke to IOL on account of his mother’s jaw being injured, rendering her unable to speak.

“We left with a couple neighbours and walked together to the Trade Centre area where the protest was.

“It was a couple of placards and what not, nothing serious.

“We really just wanted the water back in our taps and that's why we protested,” he said.

Other than the Trade Centre checkpoint, the protest organisers from Voice of Phoenix (VOP) managed to set up five other blocks along major intersections to express their displeasure with their government.

VOP leader Vassie Govender confirmed that they did not obtain a permit for the protest as they were asking for a basic right.

“It was a peaceful protest for something that we are paying for,” Govender said.

But the situation at Trade Centre robots grew tense and police had to try and disperse the crowd.

Ramsunker said teargas was used to disperse the people, who eventually started walking up the highway and towards the intersection at the garage.

But tensions at the garage were only worse, as police were trying to apprehend protesters.

Sources from the ground confirm that the crowd started getting agitated and rowdy when a man from a blue vehicle, thought to be Renault Triber, was arrested by police.

Ramsunker said he and his mother were walking back home when they noticed the crowd turn louder.

“We got to the Jazzmax building and were waiting with a crowd to cross the road so we could walk back home together.

“Before we could cross, the police and the metro guys opened fire, and the next thing I see my mum was shot on the right side of her jaw.

“It was cut open. It was chaos at that point, so I tried to get her help and started to get the paramedic’s attention. Thankfully, he was there and managed to stop the police shooting at her,” Ramsunker said.

Sanjay Patel from First Life Medical said he saw the shooting start and saw Ramsunker and her son coming toward him, and he tried to flag the police to stop shooting.

“I am there, literally screaming at the cops to stop shooting so I can go get this lady. I can see blood on one side of her face.

“They continued shooting and eventually they got (Ramsunker) to the ambulance and we took her to Mount Edgecombe Hospital.

“We treated her for a gunshot wound to the face. The victim sustained a deep tissue injury,” Patel said.

An image of Ramsunker’s injury after she was treated. Picture: Supplied

South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Lieutenant Colonel Nqobile Gwala confirmed that three suspects, aged 24, 26 and 50, were arrested for public violence.

The 50-year-old was also charged for unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The public violence case against the three was thrown out of court this week, due to a lack of evidence, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in KZN said.

Gwala said the crowd became violent at some point, which warranted the use of force by the police.

“Minimum use of force had to be used after the crowd became violent. They were throwing stones and bricks at the police,” Gwala said.

But now the VOP, and Ramsunker, want to take legal action against the police for their use of force.

Govender said that together with the help of Phoenix-based legal counsel, Miten Narain, they plan on suing the police for their use of force during the water protest.

He said people who wanted to join the case needed to contact the VOP for assistance on how to proceed.