A man was shot dead and 21 people were arrested during a protest in Tlhabane near Rustenburg, North West police said on Wednesday.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Ofentse Mokgadi said a 25-year-old man died after he was allegedly shot by security officers attempting to disperse a group of people who wanted to forcefully gain entry into a construction site.
“He was declared dead on arrival in hospital. A murder case was opened. No one has been arrested and the police are investigating the matter,” Mokgadi said.
He said 21 people were arrested for public violence and were expected to appear in the Bafokeng Magistrate’s Court in Tlhabane on Thursday.
The deceased was identified as Letlhogonolo Maimela, 25, of Phokeng by his cousin Obakeng Mathews, who was with him when he was shot.
“We were not part of the protest. We were going to Tlhabane West when we were caught in the crossfire. My cousin Letlhogonolo was shot while we were running to Tlhabane West. Elders had sent us there,” Obakeng Mathews told African News Agency at his home in Phokeng.
He said they left Phokeng and found roads blocked in Tlhabane on Tuesday afternoon.
“Roads were closed with burning tyres, I heard gunshots and we hid in a low bridge with my cousin, after some time the gunfire stopped. We then ran across the street to Tlhabane West, I heard gunshots again, when I looked back Letlhogonolo was lying on the ground. I thought he fell because he had an injured knee, I returned to pick him up, I then realised he was bleeding through his mouth and nose.
“He was shot at the back and fell, hitting the ground with his right side of head. I carried him away calling his name, at that time he responded. I was given a T-shirt to squeeze blood out of his nose,” he sobbed.
“An ambulance was called but it was taking too long to arrive. I flagged down a taxi and took him to Job Shimankane Tabane Hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.”
Letlhogonolo was a mechanical engineering graduate. He graduated last year. His family described him as a peace-loving person, always willing to help others.
“I lost a brother. He guided me, I consulted him before I started something. My cousin was the best. He had a bright future ahead of him,” said Mathews.
Letlhogonolo was the first-born child of Motlatsi Maimela. He is survived by his mother and a younger brother. Funeral arrangements were not yet finalised by Wednesday.
The protest was allegedly triggered by the failure of the project manager to table a fair report to the community regarding hiring of workers and SMME (small, medium and micro-enterprises) development.
A group of Tlhabane residents went to the construction site where a shopping mall will be built to protest against the alleged irregular and unfair employment of casual workers and SMME development.
They allegedly attempted to remove corrugated roof sheeting covering the construction site and barricade the road with burning tyres when security officers allegedly shot at them.
The Rustenburg local municipality said it had learnt with shock and disappointment of the fatal shooting of Letlhogonolo Maimela.
“It is reported that the deceased was killed by a stray bullet from the security officer during the uproar. Some members of the community have been arrested and the Rustenburg local municipality leadership and management are working together with the Tlhabane police station commander and [cluster commander] General [Arthur] Adams in an endeavor to find an amicable solution towards their release to avert further unrest in the community,” said municipal spokesperson Thapelo Matebesi.
He said the municipality’s team, led by mayor Mpho Khunou, visited the bereaved family on Tuesday, to express their condolences and assist where possible.
“We strongly condemn this unfortunate use of live ammunition that lead to the death of Letlhogonolo. The municipality will work together with the SAPS [SA Police Service] to ensure that justice is done and perpetrators are brought to book”, Khunou said in a statement.
On August 2, residents protested at the construction site demanding to be employed.
“This is a conflict of interest, we had an agreement with the contractor that 30 percent of the work will be given to local people. We want to empower emerging businesses,” said community leader Geoff Moeletsi at the time.
He said the community wanted the contractor to give them a report pertaining to the agreement.
– African News Agency (ANA)