Young child dies during protests at Bela-Bela

Two parents from Bela-Bela are demanding justice after losing their son on Tuesday, 7 February, as a result of police action. 

Karabo Khumalo (11) was allegedly caught in the police’s crossfire after violent protests erupted on the same day in the Bela-Bela Township.

Additional police officers from Thohoyandou, Giyani and Modimolle were called in to assist the Bela-Bela police to bring about order, after protesters burnt the mayor Jeremia Ngobeni’s vehicle, blockading roads with stones, burning tires and throwing stones at police. 

Later the evening, Karabo got caught in the crossfire.

“I feel angry talking about this matter, since it could have been avoided a long time ago by the community leaders — before this riots took place,” said the boy’s mother, Johanna Chokwe.

Karabo, a Grd. 5 learner at the Hleketani Primary School, was allegedly shot in the head with a rubber bullet when he was walking in the street with his mother. The incident happened close to 20:00 in the vicinity of the Sun Valley taxi rank, according to sources.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is currently investigating a case of a death as a result of police action.

Moses Dlamini, head of communications at IPID, told The Post that Karabo was rushed to the Warmbaths Hospital and then to the Provincial hospital in Polokwane, but he succumbed to his injuries and died a day later.

“The discharge of an official firearm was not reported to IPID and the failure to report it will also be investigated. The death as a result of police action was only reported on Thursday, 9 February. For now, investigations are still continuing and no arrests have been made,” said Dlamini.

During an interview with the parents, Chokwe expressed her frustration about the whole incident.

“It happened around 20:00 when I went to fetch a key at a nearby place. As I was walking in the street with my son and my other friend, also with her child, a police Nyala vehicle came rushing towards us and they started shooting randomly,” said Chokwe.

“I started screaming after I saw blood oozing from my son who was looking helpless and bleeding from the head,” Chokwe added.

She said they called the emergency services which allegedly told them to wait for them along the R101-road to Modimolle nearby a filling station, as they could not get access to the township because of the nature of the violent protest inside the township.

“We went to the local hospital at Bela-Bela and later rushed to Polokwane Hospital where he passed on the following day.”

Karabo’s father, Joel Khumalo, said he wants justice to be served.

 “I feel angry talking about this matter as it could have been avoided a long time ago by the community leaders before these riots took place” said Khumalo.

He accused the ANC led councillors for being ignorant to the community’s needs which resulted in protests and him losing his son in police crossfire.

“The worst part is that the child and the mother were shot walking home on the street without provoking the police,” he added.

Chokwe said that she will mostly miss her son’s enthusiasm and how he used to dance for them every time he saw cultural dances on television. She also said that her child was much loved and loved to play with other children.

Karabo’s funeral are to be held soon in town.

The family had since received charitable donations from Change for Bela-Bela, a community organisation.

IPID is still continuing with its investigations.


Andries van der Heyde

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