Teen beaten before being shot

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student cop INLSA (File photo) Constable Sipho Mbatha. Picture:Itumeleng English

Johannesburg - A friend of a Soweto teenager allegedly killed by a student constable was beaten by policemen before the shooting, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Tuesday.

“One of the officers beat me after finding cigarettes... While they were beating me, I saw Thato lying on the ground,” testified the 15-year-old, pregnant girl.

Sixteen-year-old Thato Mokoka was shot dead in Bramfischerville, Soweto, on February 14, allegedly by student Constable Sipho Mbatha.

Mbatha has denied the murder charge, and said he had no intention of killing the teenager. He claimed his gun went off while he was bending over the youth to search him.

According to the State, he and other police officers had gone to find Mokoka with two women and two boys, who had accused him of being part of a gang and of owning a gun.

The girl, who is eight months pregnant, testified in camera about the night of the shooting. Only reporters and family members of Mbatha and Mokoka were allowed in the courtroom.

She was talking to Mokoka, his girlfriend and another boy in a shack outside Mokoka's grandmother's home on the night of the killing.

“We heard loud footsteps. I told the others it was the police. I heard them knocking at the main house. They shouted at Thato's grandmother. I'm not sure if they hit her,” she said.

The police surrounded the shack and shone a torch through the window.

“(The male friend) doused the candle and after a while we heard the police cocking their guns. Thato told me to open the door.”

The girl said she did so and Mokoka went out with his hands raised.

On Monday, Mokoka's aunt Mpumi Mokoka told the court police had to push open the door.

She said her nephew was punched by a police officer before he could leave the shack and that he crawled out.

Asked about this on Tuesday, the girl said: “Who said Thato was punched? I did not see that.”

She told the court she was the one who was beaten by the police.

“One of the officers beat me after finding cigarettes (that we had been smoking) in Thato's room. The other two friends managed to slip out.”

When she came out of the shack, she was then beaten by her mother and the police, she said.

“While they were beating me, I saw Thato lying on the ground. I think there were two police officers by Thato and one of them had his foot on Thato's neck,” she told the court.

She suddenly heard about six gunshots and when she looked at Mokoka, he was lying with his face on the ground.

Asked to identify the shooter, the girl turned to Mbatha.

“It was him,” she said.

The girl told the court she did not see Mbatha try to search Mokoka.

“I went to Thato (as he lay dead) and told him that those responsible for his murder would go to jail,” she said.

The trial continues on Wednesday. - Sapa


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