More than 1000 people marched to the Mamelodi West police station demanding justice for the late Katlego ‘Katli’ Joja. Pictures: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
More than 1000 people marched to the Mamelodi West police station demanding justice for the late Katlego ‘Katli’ Joja. Pictures: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Justice for autistic Katli

By SAKHILE NDLAZI Time of article published May 10, 2018

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THE spirit of little Katlego Katli Joja was reincarnated as hundreds of people marched through the streets of Mamelodi demanding justice for the autistic girl whose body was found under a bridge on Sunday.

Her family, civic organisations, religious groups, pupils and taxi drivers marched to Mamelodi West police station to hand over a memorandum in which they called for the speedy procession of an inquest into her death.

The group wants the case to be prioritised and an investigation to be carried out with utmost diligence. They also want police officers who turned back her family when they went to report her missing to be fired.

The community also called for police to monitor the Moretele River where Katli's body was found very closely, day and night.

From about 8.30am, the popular Mamelodi West taxi rank was a hive of activity with marchers carrying placards and singing.

By 9am, more than 1000 participants had filled Shabangu Street to begin the march in the streets of the place Katli called home. A heavy police presence ensured safety and order.

The men and women in blue at the police station were visibly shocked when protesters arrived.

Katli's uncle Thabiso Storom said he believed that if they had received urgent help, based on the circumstance of the case, she would still be alive. “There was no sense of urgency from the police even when we explained that Katli was autistic.”

The family conducted their own search and printed pamphlets which were widely circulated.

It wasn't until a neighbour called the police and reported a false domestic abuse incident at the Storom household that police eventually arrived. And after much deliberation a case was eventually opened.  “The march shows solidarity of the people of Mamelodi and is testimony that everyone is touched by what happened to Katli,” said Storom.

He said the family had received preliminary autopsy results, but were reluctant to divulge them until a final report was given.

Leader of #NotInMyName, Siyabulela Jentile, demanded that police provide a detailed prevention plan to ensure that what happened to Katli never happens again.

“We are tired of burying our children,” he said.

Reverend Dr Paledi Magopa, on behalf of the Mamelodi Ministers Fraternal, said police had a crucial and paramount duty of ensuring Mamelodi was kept safe - failing which the residents would take the law into their own hands.

A Mothers of Children with Autism member, Dineo Makenete, said police needed to have a flexible policy that allowed for children with special needs to be assisted. “The first hours that a special child goes missing are the most crucial. This 24-hour waiting period rule is nonsense,” she said.

The memorandum was received by station commander Lungiswa Tshayana, who said it would be given the attention it deserved.

Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange said internal investigations would be conducted into why police didn't act with urgency.

A memorial service will be held today at her home in D4 from 3pm. Katli will be buried tomorrow.

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