Pupils rampage at murder trial

Thembela Khamango and Sapa

Thembela Khamango and Sapa

Violence erupted outside the Protea magistrates' court in Soweto yesterday when hundreds of pupils threw stones at police transporting five men accused of murdering 14-year-old Thato Radebe to the Johannesburg prison.

"They climbed over the Nyala (armoured police van), hit it with spades and threw stones at it, leaving its windows cracked," said Constable Sefako Xaba.

The pupils, who were in school uniform, arrived in droves from various schools for the court hearing. They demanded that the five men be denied bail.

Xaba said the incident was "very disappointing".

"What they did was not called for. It is not as if those men are walking the streets. They are in custody and are facing a murder charge."

He said the matter would be taken up with the Congress of South African Students.

"We didn't even have enough manpower to calm the situation because police were only there to transport the accused."

The five men at the centre of the chaotic incident had their case postponed to May 7 for DNA test results to be finalised. They remain in custody.

They were arrested soon after Thato's battered body was found in a field on February 4. She had been raped, stabbed and stoned to death.

The accused are Nqobile Sibisi, 18, Stanley Masemola, 20, Mandla Mtshali, 20, Themba Mndaweni, 18, and Thabiso Ganta, 21. They appeared briefly before magistrate Herman Badenhorst.

Shouts of "Sizonishisa," loosely translated as: "We will burn you", were heard from the public gallery as the five left the packed courtroom.

Outside court thousands of pupils from Soweto schools were chanting freedom songs as they protested against the rape and murder of children throughout Soweto.

Thato's mother, Happy Radebe, said even if the five were jailed for life, it would not bring back her daughter.

"All I want is for the court to speed up the process. I want this whole thing to be over," she said.

ANC Women's League regional organiser Bontle Setshoqoe said: "We are calling on the department of justice to speed up the process. Enough is enough. We are not going to be coming to court for nothing," said Setshoeqoe.

Miranda Freidmann, director of Women and Men Against Child Abuse called on communities to work against irresponsibility.