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S.Africa’s rights watchdog criticises police’s use of force

South Africa’s Human Rights Commission on Thursday voiced concern at the use of police force, pledging to investigate the cause of recent water protests that led to three deaths.

In a strongly worded public statement, the state rights watchdog expressed “concern at the continued use of force by the police,” amid this and a string of allegations of brutality.

Three people have been killed this week in protests over the lack of water in townships near the northern town Brits.

One man, a 27-year-old, died after he was allegedly pushed from a moving police van Tuesday, while two others died from gunshot wounds Monday.

A local police spokesman said the man had jumped from the vehicle to escape arrest, but gave no details on the two shooting victims.

A police watchdog is already probing the deaths, and police minister Nathi Mthethwa vowed action against any culprits in the force implicated in the deaths.

The country’s police are frequently embroiled in allegations of brutality, but prosecutions are rare.

The commission Thursday admonished the police force for failing to heed recommendations for better training and community outreach after the death of an activist, Andries Tatane, in 2011.

Violent protests over substandard delivery of utilities are common in South Africa.

Services are especially poor in the townships, former apartheid-era slums where non-whites were forced to live.

The rights commission said it would launch an investigation “into the causes of the protest in relation to the provision of water.”

The probe is not expected to directly address police actions.

“It is deeply concerning that we have many poor people across the country who are still deprived access to adequate water and sanitation,” the statement said.