South Africa 9.6.2015 07:00 am

Cop ‘surprised’ by deaths of protesters

Police cordoned area. Picture: Neil McCartney

Police cordoned area. Picture: Neil McCartney

A colleague of the police officer on trial for allegedly murdering three protesters during a water protest in Mothotlung yesterday testified he was “surprised” by the deaths as he had never seen people “dying like that”.

A colleague of the police officer on trial for allegedly murdering three protesters during a water protest in Mothotlung yesterday testified he was “surprised” by the deaths as he had never seen people “dying like that”.

Warrant Officer Daniel Kgotleng was part of a squad of eight members of the Public Order Policing unit in Klipgat sent to control protesters in January last year.

He testified in the trial of Warrant Officer Hyde Mophosho, 44, of Soshanguve, who had pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder, three of attempted murder and the unlawful possession of live SSG shotgun ammunition.

The state alleges Mophosho was one of a number of policemen who, on January 13 last year, without any provocation fired teargas and shots at a crowd of protesters.

The protesters were marching to the Madibeng municipality in Brits to lodge their grievance about water shortages in the area.

Michael Tshele and Osiha Rahube died at the scene and Enock Seemela died in hospital six days later.

Mophosho said in his plea explanation he had asked permission to use a colleague’s shotgun that day, was only armed with rubber bullets and never had the intention of murdering anyone.

Kgotleng testified they were issued with shotguns and rubber bullets when they attended to the unrest situation on January 12 and 13 last year.

He insisted his commander, Kenneth Mashinae, had inspected the belts with bullets issued to him to make sure the ammunition was really rubber bullets.

One could distinguish between the white and blue rubber bullets and live SSG shotgun rounds, which were black and heavier.

Kgotleng testified he and a colleague had fired rubber bullets at members of the community who tried to attack them near a councillor’s house earlier in the day on January 12.

Later, when they opened fire on protesters at the Brits crossing, he saw Mophosho, who was issued with an R5 rifle, using a shotgun.

He did not hear any exceptionally loud bangs when they were firing.

Kgotleng said he was surprised when Mophosho later told their cluster commander “he fired by mistake a bullet that contained pellets”.

The trial continues.

– ilsed@citizen.co.za

 

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