Man describes horror of seeing brother shot dead as protest turns violent
Sipho Mabena | 2017-01-30 18:42:14.0
File image of a gun firing.
Image by: Gallo Images/ IStock
What started as a peaceful protest for clean drinking water took a violent turn in the North West province’s Moeka village in the Moretele municipality‚ leaving a man dead and several homes torched.
Thulani Sithole‚ 21‚ fatally shot through the head in the early hours of Saturday‚ was among a group of residents who barricaded the main road passing through the impoverished village demanding drinking water.
He was shot metres from his home as his elder brother‚ Alfred‚ watched in horror.
“I was just few metres from him when a group of people opened fire randomly. As we took cover‚ I saw him fall to the ground. I crouched to crawl to him as bullets flew above amid screams of frightened people running for cover. I heard someone scream ‘Thulani is dead’‚” he said.
Alfred ran to his home to get a blanket to cover his younger brother but found him breathing heavily. He wrapped him in the blanket and frantically flagged down a taxi to rush him to the nearby clinic.
“I pleaded with him not die but he just slumped in my arms and he was gone before we got to the clinic‚” he said.
Rumours soon swirled that the killers were sent by owners of private water tankers who benefit from the areas’ water crisis to intimidate residents. This led to residents burning down the house of the former mayor and now education MEC‚ Sello Lehari‚ and several other houses belonging to senior ANC members.
Alfred said they identified one of the shooters as Lehari’s security guard and he was now living in fear as other leaders of the protest had gone into hiding after their lives were threatened.
After Lehari’s house was burned to the ground‚ a group of people went around targeting community leaders and torched a house belonging to community leader Mathews Hlongwane‚ who is now in hiding.
His wife‚ Kgopolang‚ said they were sleeping when about five men knocked loudly on the door of their house.
“They demanded to know where my husband was. They ransacked the house and then ordered me and children out of the house ……I asked them to give me my ID document before the set the house alight‚” she said.
Police spokesman Constable Herman Moremi confirmed that one person was shot dead and that a number of houses‚ including that of the MEC‚ had been burned during the protest that had started on Thursday.
Moremi said a case of murder and public violence had been opened and five people were arrested.
The five appeared in court on Monday and were released on R500 bail.