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Ipid probes death of 13-year-old boy during service delivery protests in Emalahleni

The N4 was closed to traffic in Emalahleni last week amid service delivery protests. File photo.
The N4 was closed to traffic in Emalahleni last week amid service delivery protests. File photo.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) on Monday confirmed it is investigating the deaths of at least two people shot during service delivery protests in Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) last week. 

One of the victims was a 13-year-old schoolboy. 

“The teenager was fatally shot in the head while a [42-year-old] man was also fatally shot with what looks like pellets,” Ipid told TimesLIVE. 

“The police are not allowed to use live ammunition in protests.”  

TimesLIVE has identified the victims as Robert Carruthers Primary School deputy headboy Philasande Yende and Sipho Mnguni. 

Life lost yesterday ku strike, may they souls rest in perfect peace... ❤️❤️💯💯🙏🙏

Posted by Trevor Vilakazi on Thursday, May 11, 2023

Ipid said site visits to investigate what happened had not yet taken place due to high tensions in the area. 

Community members embarked on mass protests last week after days without power, allegedly due to a damaged transformer. The lack of electricity led to their water supply also being disrupted.

Protesters went on the rampage, blocking the busy N4 which runs alongside the affected townships. Schools were disrupted and children needing to travel to reach their schools, along with workers, were prevented from leaving the area. 

A truck was torched and several motorists reported their vehicles were stoned. 

Police spokesperson Col Donald Mdhluli said at least three people were killed in the unrest. As far as SAPS was aware, it was only the 13-year-old boy's death that was being investigated.

“The allegations are that out of the three male victims who were fatally shot, two are minors and one is an adult. It is alleged that one of the minors was shot in a scene where police were deployed,” said Mdhluli.

“Ipid is probing the allegations to find out whether police were involved in the shooting.” 

On the other deaths, Mdhluli said: “Allegations are that motorists who wanted to use the blocked roads could have been involved. However, the probe is ongoing and we cannot pre-empt the investigation, which will hopefully give details of what transpired, hence [an]  investigation is being conducted.”

Last week, as tensions reached boiling point, residents hurled stones at their mayor after she addressed them. They alleged Conny Nkalitshana had said they do not need electricity as they do not own refrigerators and had no use for water as they did not bath anyway. 

A video of the attack went viral on social media.

After the incident, Nkalitshana disputed that she had made the remarks. She claimed the utterances were made by a relative of Yende's who she alleged had taken the megaphone from her after her address. 

“The mayor categorically refutes these allegations. 'I did not and will never utter such words to the community and to anyone, for that matter' — to quote her exact words,” said the municipality.

“The lady whose identity has been confirmed took the loud hailer from the mayor when the community meeting was about to be adjourned and began to complain about the community, accusing them of not paying attention or showing concern for her unfortunate family situation.

“Regrettably, she started speaking about people not having refrigerators and so on,” Nkalitshana's office said.


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