Update: Buti Lesiela, Red Ants' deputy CEO, was quoted by SABC as saying the people killed were not employed by the company and were from "another service provider."

"None of our members have been killed or injured on site, probably it's another service provider. We have been hired to evict people who have invaded a concealment. Police had to recall us to say we should stop because of the violence that was taking place there," he said.

Original report:

At least two people believed to be members of a security company known as Red Ants have been killed and another six injured during a protest against forced evictions in Hammanskraal, northern Guateng, South Africa. The Red Ants, so-called because of their red uniform, are often hired by the government to evict people and dismantle illegally occupied homes and lands.

The protest kicked off when a group of Red Ants reached Hammanskraal on 23 May. Residents refused to leave their houses and erected barricades and road blocks forcing vehicles to turn around. One bus was also torched.

People continued to protest on 24 May, with residents blockading roads with burning tyres and rocks, News24 reported. At least six people have been arrested in connection with the violence.

Police spokesperson Tsekiso Mofokeng was quoted by Eyewitness News as saying the Tshwane Municipality conducted an operation to remove shacks erected illegally.

"Two companies were contracted to do that. Upon arrival on the area, they were approached and got into a fight with the community members and unfortunately two members were fatally wounded." Mofokeng urged citizens not to take the law into their hands.

The South African National Civic Organisation's (Sanco) blamed the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) socialist party for the violent protest and alleged the organisation encouraged the illegal occupation of land.

Protesters denied the allegations and said their protest is apolitical. They also added they were granted permission by the township to live on the land.

Speaking to News24, a resident alleged the ruling African National Congress (ANC) allowed members to occupy the area. "This is just a strategy for them to win votes. They must not blame someone else for their actions," he said.

Red Ants SA
File photo: Members of the Red Ants (a local contracted group of workers enforcing municipal orders of demolition or evictions) tear down several structures in central Johannesburg Marco Longari/ AFP