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TEAR GAS FIRED IN MARCH OVER DETAINED PUPILS

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SITEKI – Chaos erupted when police officers from Lomahasha Police Station fired tear gas canisters to disperse youth members who were threatening to pelt police vehicles with stones.

Yesterday, the youth, accompanied by parents, converged outside the police station in the morning demanding the release of seven pupils detained in connection with the torching of the Shewula Police Post last week. The Shewula Police Post was gutted by a fire that was allegedly started by Lomahasha High School pupils and those from Shewula High after their schoolmate; Samkeliso Matimakhulu, was shot in his right thigh allegedly by a police officer who was dispersing them during a protest march held last week Monday.

Convened

Yesterday, the over 200 youth members, and parents first convened at the Lomahasha Service Centre before embarking on their journey to the police station.
The detained pupils were taken by the police on Monday for questioning. According to Lomahasha Youth Leader, Siboniso Mkhabela, they were told by the Lomahasha Police Station Commander Philip Tsabedze that he would not release the pupils as investigations were ongoing. Mkhabela said Tsabedze told them they would release some of the detained pupils but some would be detained as evidence pointed that they had a hand in the matter.

Some members of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said the youth was irked by the presence of armed police officers from the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU) and the army. “It was a joint march by parents from Lomahasha and Shewula with their children. They demanded that the pupils be released because there is no tangible evidence linking them to the crime. However, when we were still engaging with the station commander, some of the police officers fired tear gas canisters as they were threatened by some of the youth who were carrying stones,” one of the PUDEMO members said.

The interviewed members stated that some of the youth members ran into nearby bushes but there were no casualties. They said the unfortunate situation was that the police fired the tear gas in the presence of elderly people who had come to demand answers regarding their detained children. “The pupils have been detained in unfavourable conditions and their parents are not happy about the police’s conduct in assaulting and detaining children without collecting enough evidence to charge them,” emphasized the members.

Stones

Meanwhile, the youth further blocked the Shewula road that stretches from Majembeni, Sineyini and Nduma with stones. However, police came and dispersed them. Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superitendent Phindile Vilakati said five pupils had been charged out of the seven who are in custody. “The five charged pupils’ ages range between18 and 20. The other two are still being investigated. The police engaged their leaders and they dispersed peacefully. There was no tear gas canisters fired,” Vilakati said. Worth noting is that the pupils from both schools protested and called for the release of incarcerated Members of Parliament (MPs) in Hosea’s Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Ngwempisi’s Mthandeni Dube.

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