Taung - A mother was struck by a police rubber bullet as she knelt crying over the body of her teenage son, who had been fatally shot through the head.
Anna Leeuw, 50, was hit in the lower back moments after a suspected police live round shattered her son Kitlano’s head, killing him, as violent protests demanding the resignation of North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo escalated throughout the province on Tuesday.
The protests began in Mahikeng last week after the shelving of a vote of no confidence against Mahumapelo. This was after the EFF had approached the court for a secret ballot to shield members of the ANC, who also want the premier out.
Kitlano, 16, was at home when the protest started in Taung on Monday afternoon, but he decided to go out and watch as protesters started burning tyres on the bridge near his house that night.
Kitlano was a Grade 10 learner at Pinagare High School.
“We were all curious to see what was happening, so we walked along with the protesters near the bridge. The police were on the other side and it was dark. They started shooting at us and I saw Kitlano fall on the ground, while other people ran in different directions for safety,” said Kitlano’s friend, Molefi Sekgonetso.
The boy’s family was called to the scene. His mother sobbed as she sat next to her son’s bloodied and lifeless body.
“Then we heard another gunshot, which struck his mother in the lower back as she tried to get up and run towards the car,” said Molefi. The rubber bullet left Leeuw with a blue abrasion.
A medical officer who attended to Kitlano said the boy was already dead when they got to the scene.
“I don’t rule out the possibility that he was shot by a live round.
"The impact of that bullet was so severe that it struck him on the left side of his face and exited through the back of his head. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said the officer, who did not want to be named.
He added that the level of violence had left medical officers concerned for their own safety. “It’s chaos, and people have not stopped looting foreign-owned spaza shops. Our safety is not guaranteed."
Kitlano is the second fatality linked to the anti-Mahumapelo protests, after another man was hit by a car and died during a high-speed chase between police and protesters in Airport View Mahikeng.
Kitlano’s grandmother, Motswana, said her daughter has not been able to get medical attention at the hospital because of the protests.
“Kitlano’s death has left us shattered. He died even though he was not part of the protest and did not have a clue what the protest was about. He was an innocent bystander.
"What angers us most is that the police have not come to explain to us what happened,” said Motswana.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone confirmed the incident, which he said occurred between 10pm and 11pm on Monday, and that a murder case had been opened.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesperson Moses Dlamini told The Star that detectives had already been sent to Taung to investigate the case.
“We don’t know if the police were involved in this matter, as we are still trying to establish all the facts. Once that is done, a case of death as a result of police action will be opened,” Dlamini said.
Scenes of violence have gripped most parts of the province. Protesters have looted shops and burnt buildings during their clashes with police. More than 10 people have been arrested for various crimes, including damaging property.
The Department of Social Development is feeding and caring for 650 displaced foreigners whose shops were looted and destroyed.
“We appeal to the community, businesses and NPOs to lend a hand in addressing their plight,” said MEC Hoffman Galeng on Tuesday.
Adding to the situation is the ongoing union strike, which has seen several healthcare facilities shut. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was in the area this week and called for the intervention of the SANDF.
The EFF chairperson in the Dr Ruth Mompati Region, Tebogo Babuile, said although they wanted Mahumapelo out over corruption allegations against him, they were against the violence and vandalism.
The ANC provincial leadership has stood by Mahumapelo.
“As regions, we are not in support of this call as we believe the premier has performed exceptionally well. It is our view that the call by the Revolutionary Council, Cosatu, SACP and opposition parties is malicious and misinformed.
"Recalling the premier must be performance-based and supported by factual evidence that indeed he is corrupt. As things stand, no one has backed their allegations with concrete evidence,” the ANC said in a statement.
But Cosatu and the SACP in the province are turning the screws on the premier. On Tuesday the country’s biggest public sector trade union, Nehawu, announced its plans to move its secretariat to North West as from tomorrow to work with other organisations in the push for Mahumapelo’s removal.
Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha told reporters the union had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to fire Mahumapelo.
“We want the president to use his powers and prerogative, as expressed in the constitution. He is the one who appoints, he hires and fires. But the president would not do so without the facts being put on the table. That is why we are calling for an audience with him,” Saphetha said.
MPs in the home affairs portfolio committee in Parliament also pushed for Mahumapelo to be summonsed to testify in their probe into the naturalisation of the Guptas.
The ANC’s Hlomane Chauke said: “Everything around the Guptas is made or starts in North West." - Additional reporting by Siviwe Feketha and Mayibongwe Maqhina