North West -
The violent protests that started in Bloemhof and spread to Christiana has claimed its first casualty: a Grade 9 pupil who was shot and killed when protesters in Christiana marched to the municipal offices on Wednesday.
The angry residents said that the 17-year-old boy had been shot and killed by a white tavern owner who allegedly shot at them when they were marching to the Lekwa-Teemane Municipality.
“We were marching from Geluksoord then we went over the N12 and then onto the road leading to town and as we were about to enter the town, the white man and his friends came out of the tavern wielding their guns and approached us,” the residents said.
They said that as the white men approached them, “we got frightened and started turning back”.
“As we ran, one of the men shot at us like he was shooting animals at a game farm. We ran until we crossed over the N12 onto the side of the township. This is why we started to barricade the highway with rocks,” the protesters added.
They said that shortly after they barricaded the highway, the police arrived “and they started shooting at us too”.
The residents vowed to avenge the death of the 17-year-old.
“We are going to pay revenge for the killing of one of our own,” they said.
“That white man must be arrested or else we will set that tavern of his alight or kill him,” they said.
They said that the killing of the pupil was going to divide the town along racial lines.
“Racial tensions in this town are serious already and this latest incident is like pouring petrol onto the fire,” the protesters added.
Efforts to speak to the man who allegedly killed the boy were futile as he was arrested by the police.
The man’s wife, said that it was not true that her husband had killed the boy.
“My husband was given an advice by the local chief of traffic, who told him to shoot in the air if the protesters came into town. So he did exactly that. He did not shoot at the people. He only shot in the air. The person who died could have been trampled on during a stampede that occurred when the marchers were running away,” she said.
She added that “for almost an hour my husband held those people off from accessing the town”.
“What would have happened had he not done so? Police arrived a bit late. Some of those marchers wanted to come to the tavern to harass the people who are working here because some of them are foreign nationals,” she added.
Police officers on the scene refused to speak to the DFA on the killing of the boy.
The spokesman for the North West police, Brigadier Thulani Ngubane, confirmed that one person was shot and killed in Christiana during the protest.
“The police found the man already dead and it is believed that he was shot dead during the time when people went into the town and started looting shops belonging to foreign shop owners,” Ngubane added.
He said that although no one had been arrested in connection with the killing, “the police have taken some people in for questioning”.
The teenager’s mother, Tshidi Mokonono, said that although she had not yet identified her son’s body she was certain that it was him.
“The people that were with him at the protest confirmed this to me. It pains me a lot to lose a child like this,” the emotional woman said.
Battling to hold back tears, Mokonono said that it was “sad that I will never see his dream of wanting to be a teacher come true”.
“I would like to see the man who did this to my child arrested and sentenced to jail for a long time,” she added.
On Thursday, North West premier Thandi Modise appealed for calm following the shooting.
“We are saddened that the life of a person so young was cut short under such unfortunate circumstances and wish to convey our condolences to the family that lost their loved one,” she said.
“Everything has to be done to normalise the situation, prevent destruction of private and private properties and loss of lives.”
The protesting residents said they were marching to the offices of their municipality to show solidarity with their peers who were protesting in Bloemhof.
“Christiana is part of the same Lekwa-Teemane Municipality. So we were marching to the municipal offices to demand that the mayor and the councillors be removed from their positions.”
Late on Wednesday, the house belonging to a councillor, Tebogo Mokgosi, in the adjacent Utlwanang township was reported to have been burned down.
Modise was expected to lead a provincial executive council (Exco) intervention task team to talk to protesters in Boitumelong in Bloemhof on Thursday at 3pm.
She was also expected to meet with residents of Bodibe in Itsoseng near Lichtenburg on Friday.
Diamond Fields Advertiser and Sapa