A 10-year old boy, who was allegedly shot in the mouth by police firing rubber bullets while attempting to disperse people protesting over a lack of water in Pietermaritzburg’s Willowfontein area in KwaZulu-Natal, will need reconstructive surgery.
The boy’s mother Thembi Soni on Sunday accused police of using excessive force to break up the riot in which her son had become caught up as he made his way home from school on Friday.
Grade 4 pupil Skhumbuzo Soni suffered a split upper lip that will need to be surgically repaired as a result of the delay in getting him to hospital.
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Skhumbuzo was injured in the morning, but was only able to receive medical attention at hospital on Friday evening as paramedics had been unable to access Willowfontein as a result of the protests. At the time of the protests, no water had been supplied by the Msunduzi municipality since the previous Sunday.
“He was taken to the local clinic where staff did well to stop the bleeding, but they did not have the capacity to stitch him,” said Soni. The delay meant that the wound had started to heal before his lips could be stitched together, necessitating the surgery.
The Willowfontein Primary School pupil insists that he was not part of the protesters, but walked past them on the way home.
“When we got to school in the morning we were told that teachers were unable to get to school and we were advised to go home, so on our way back home we noticed people that were protesting and when we walked past we heard shots and moments later I realised that I was injured,” Skumbuzo said.
Because of the severity of the injury and swelling, his speech only returned to normal on Saturday. Soni said she wanted answers as to why police shot at her son.
“I cannot understand how anyone can just shoot at a crowd when there are children around. My child was wearing a school uniform which clearly distinguished him and other schoolmates from the crowd. This use of force was uncalled for and somebody must account for this,” she said.
Police spokesman Captain Musa Ntombela said clashes had taken place, but he could not verify whether anyone had been injured or arrested as a result of the clashes.
Friday’s protest was the third one in the week as residents vented their anger at not getting water.
“The last time we saw a water tanker in the area was on Sunday. How are we expected to survive for five days without water? Children need to bath before going to school. There is cooking and laundry to be done,” said one resident.
Msunduzi municipality has over the past months implemented water restrictions in line with instructions from the water and sanitation department. But Imbali residents complained that while other areas falling under the municipality have had restrictions they were forced to go for days without a water supply.
Willowfontein, which is the home of African National Congress treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, is part Imbali, which lies west of Pietermaritzburg’s city centre.
– African News Agency (ANA)