Students stone cars, rob street vendors after court case

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Police had their hands full yesterday trying to control rampaging Soweto students.

The pupils had gathered at the Protea magistrates' court for the case of five men accused of raping and murdering 14-year-old schoolgirl Thato Radebe.

The dead girl's mother, Happy Radebe, has called on the students to stop coming to the court.

She condemned their unruly behaviour, saying they should go back to school because the matter was now in the hands of the courts.

She said: "These children must just go to school and stop coming to court. Even if they are at court they are not allowed in, they spend time outside."

She said she was appalled by the reports of the pupils misbehaving when they went to court and on their returning from there.

She said their actions were not in line with their claim that they were showing support for the dead girl's family.

Kate Bapela, a spokesman for the Education Department, said: "Officials of the Soweto district held a meeting with principals and told them to keep a register of pupils who were absent.

"If these pupils are found to have been at court, we will instruct principals to take appropriate action.

"We cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour from pupils from Soweto, which has some of the worst-performing schools in the country."

The court case was postponed to June 26 pending DNA results.

After the court proceedings, the students descended on a supermarket in Protea with the aim of looting it.

But police were ready for them at the supermarket and managed to turn them away.

They then went on a rampage in the township's streets, grabbing whatever they could from street hawkers.

They pelted passing vehicles with stones, damaging the windows of a refuse removal truck.

The students then went to Merafe train station and began toyi-toying while they were waiting for their train to arrive.

When asked by Sowetan why they were not returning to school, they said they were used to taking the day off every time the rape and murder suspects appeared in court.

It has now become the norm for students in and around Soweto to bunk classes whenever the five suspects appear in court.

There is always a heavy police presence at the court's gates to bar the students from entering the yard.

Yesterday, while at Merafe train station, a group of students also starting playing the deadly game of "train surfing".