schoolboy did not have to die

SENT CONDOLENCES: Cope official Luckson Mathebula. 02/02/09. © Sowetan.
SENT CONDOLENCES: Cope official Luckson Mathebula. 02/02/09. © Sowetan.

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

Mpumalanga's politicians have reacted with fury to the police shooting dead a 17-year-old pupil while he was attending class last week.

Armed police officers raided the boy's classroom on Friday searching for two pupils "reported to have unlicensed weapons".

The pupils from the Grade 11 class at Manukose High School in Merry People Stream, near Thulamahashe, fled in terror when police reportedly began firing as they charged into the classroom.

Young Sedi Khoza died when a bullet hit him in the face.

"We expect the police to act with responsibility to protect our people and not to take lives," said Luckson Mathebula, Cope's chairman in the Bohlabela region.

Mathebula, a former Mpumalanga MEC for safety and security, said his organisation had sent condolences to the "murdered boy's family".

Paul Mbenyane, the ANC's spokesman in Mpumalanga, said: "It is sad indeed and obviously we condemn the incident in the strongest possible terms. We called upon the law to take its course and suggest that the perpetrators be taken to book."

Christian Party's national leader Louis Marneweck said "police brutality must stop".

"It is terrible because the police seem to know they will be protected. All the rotten apples should be removed with immediate effect."

He cited the allegations of drug running against Mpumalanga's former police commissioner Africa Khumalo and the case where six policemen locked a female inmate in a cell with male prisoners who then raped her.

Anthony Benadie, the DA leader in Mpumalanga, said it was devastating that such an incident could happen in the province.

"It was highly irresponsible for a policeman to fire live ammunition in a congested area.

"They should have had the foresight [to realise] that innocent lives would be in danger if they fired shots in an overcrowded school."

Asked how police could simply storm into a classroom without first discussing their intended action with the school principal, Superintendent Abie Khoabane refused to comment, saying the matter was now in the hands of the Independent Complaints Directorate.

Directorate spokesperson Kedibone Phiri said she would wait for a full report from police investigators in Mpumalanga before commenting.

Police officers at the school arrested three youths "suspected of possessing firearms", but have not found any weapons as yet.

Joseph Dube, spokesman for Gun Free South Africa, said the officer who fired the shot should be declared "unfit to possess" a firearm.