If children are the future

why are so many men with guns shooting at them? Right now, we’ve the high profile hostage drama in Russia.

And then we have a quieted South African story. On Monday, the police shot at 4,000 mainly school-aged children from Bloemfontein, Welkom, Botshabelo and Qwaqwa in Intabezwe, in the Free State. The students were protesting against underdevelopment.

Why no outcry? If this had happened under apartheid, there’d be pickets outside South African embassies, t-shirts and the paraphernalia of protest. But under the ANC, well, the certainties of African misrule are able to lull the outside world into ignoring this outrage.

Imagine what your reaction would have been reading this article, from today’s Cape Times, fifteen years ago:

A 17-year-old boy, one of about 24 school children wounded by police during a clash in Harrismith on Monday, has died alone and afraid in a hospital bed.

Teboho Mkhonza was one of two protesters police had said initially were lightly wounded by shotgun fire – one in the hand and the other in the leg.

Later police claimed Teboho had been wounded in the chest by a rubber bullet.

But when reporters visited his heartbroken family on Tuesday, the clothing he had been wearing told a different story: it was riddled with birdshot holes and soaked with blood.

Teboho, a Grade 10 pupil who lived with his adoptive mother, Violet Ngcongwane, in Intabazwe township on the outskirts of this Free State town, had allegedly also been kicked as he was being put in a police van after being shot.

His adoptive sister, Brenda Tsotsetsi, 23, tears streaming down her face, said Teboho had become involved in a protest organised by a body known as The Concerned Group about the poor services provided by the municipality.

“I went to find out what was happening and I saw Tebo there. I begged him not to stand in front as the police were there and I was afraid,” Tsotsetsi said.

“One of the members of The Concerned Group claimed they had been waiting peacefully to speak to mayor Eddie Mzangwa ‘when the police just started firing at us’.

“I went home and didn’t see Tebo after the shooting. Later a boy told me the police had taken Tebo in a van. I went to look for him and passed some police and asked them about my brother, but no one helped.”

Eventually Tsotsetsi found Teboho in one of the wards.

“His bed was red with blood, his skin was pale and he was asking for his mother.”

Teboho had been wounded “all over” with birdshot and was bleeding severely.

The boy’s condition deteriorated and she helped him into an ambulance after a decision was taken to transfer him to Manapo Hospital in nearby QwaQwa.

“He cried and told me the police had kicked him in the ribs when they had put him in their van. He was in a lot of pain.”

Teboho’s family called Manapo Hospital early on Tuesday and were told that the teenager had slipped into a coma. They were asked to go to the hospital.

“We got there and a cousin came to speak to us. He told us Tebo had passed away,” Tsotsetsi said, speaking as her devastated mother threw the dead teenager’s bloodsoaked clothes onto the lounge floor.

“This is what we have left of him,” the older woman said.

On Monday, Free State police spokesperson Paul Kubheka said police had opened fire after about 4 500 youths forced their way onto the N3 highway. Two youths were hit with shotgun pellets – one in the leg and another in the hand.

But on Tuesday Free State police spokesperson Annelie Wrensch said police had used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and police believed Teboho had died of internal bleeding.

Members of the Independent Complaints Directorate were on their way to the town to investigate, a spokesperson, Steve Mabona, said.

[Via Salim]