Babies in hospital after police fire teargas

The Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa. File photo: Etienne Creux

The Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa. File photo: Etienne Creux

Published Apr 19, 2013


Pretoria - Two Mabopane babies were admitted to the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa on Thursday after inhaling teargas thrown at a group of protesters by police.

The children, aged a month and two months, were at a creche in Mabopane when they inhaled the teargas. They spent the night in hospital as a precautionary measure, health officials said.

Metro policemen and members of the South African Police Services on Thursday threw teargas canisters at a group of protesters as they ran along a street where the creche is.

Metro Police spokesman Ellias Mahamba confirmed the use of teargas during the protest in Mabopane’s Section AA and said: “We were dispersing the crowd, which had become unruly; it is unfortunate that children were affected.”

Mahamba said teargas blew into an open window at the creche. “The cops only wanted to disperse the crowds,” he said.

But a mother, whose baby was admitted to hospital and who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said the police had failed to act responsibly.

Speaking from the hospital where her baby had been put on oxygen, the mother said: “The police chased the group from the main road and into a street full of homes; surely they knew that there were people who were not part of the action in that area.”

She asked why the police had decided to pursue the protesting group as if they had committed crimes. “I cannot accept that my innocent baby, whose lungs are still very small, will have to spend the night here,” she said.

A woman who identified herself only as Phindile was among the hundreds of young protesters who were up at dawn to burn tyres and blockade main roads into and out of section AA on Thursday morning. She was also among those who ran into the street in which the creche is, when the police started advancing towards them, shooting them with rubber bullets. “The hiss of teargas and a cloud of smoke followed on my heels just as I passed the creche,” she said.

One room in the house which houses the creche had open windows. Katie Mnisi, who works at the creche, said confusion followed the sounds of protesters running and policeman shouting, canisters falling and fumes wafting into the room.

Children started coughing just before they bundled all of them into another room, where they locked them up. “The smaller ones started breathing with difficulty and crying,” she said. Ambulances arrived soon afterwards and whisked six of the children to a nearby clinic. Parents were notified of the incident. A mother who works in Rosslyn told the Pretoria News: “I jumped into a taxi and cried all the way because I was so frightened of the harm to my boy.”

Her six-year-old son had been taken home by her brother, but she was not forgiving. “The police acted irresponsibly and put our kids in danger” she asked.

A nurse at Ga-Rankuwa said the two babies were going to be observed overnight for to make sure that no complications arose.

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Pretoria News

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