Police fire rubber bullets at Geluksdal students

A fatal stabbing at the school has led to protests demanding “justice” for Shawn Mphela

By Kimberly Mutandiro

17 February 2023

Police fire rubber bullets at students protesting about how the case of a fatal stabbing at Geluksdal Secondary is being handled. Stones were thrown at police according to witnesses. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

Two members of the Pan Africanist Student Organisation (PASO) were taken into police custody following a protest which saw students throwing stones at police officers and burning tyres outside the Tsakane Magistrate Court and police station on Thursday. The two protesters are over 18 years old and are charged with inciting public violence.

Students also blocked roads and burnt tyres at intersections. They said they are demanding “justice” for student Shawn Mphela, who was fatally stabbed on 2 February at Geluksdal Secondary. They are unhappy about how the case is proceeding. It was postponed to 15 February, and then again postponed to 24 March.

According to Tsakane police station commander Colonel Goodall Khumbulani Mbatha, 14 juveniles were also arrested but were released.

Students under the PASO banner marched to schools around Tsakane and to Geluksdal Secondary disrupting classes. By 10am, close to 100 students were outside the magistrates’ court and nearby police station on Indaba Street.

Students also protested last week on Thursday and on Wednesday this week. But this Thursday, things got out of hand when stones were thrown at police and police fired rubber bullets and teargas at the students.

“Why do they keep postponing the case?” asked Gift Sethathi, PASO member from Mamelong Secondary.

“The case is not being taken seriously. All we want is justice for Shawn. They should not grant him [the suspect] bail,” said Mpho Maesela, also a PASO member.

Students accused the school of discriminating against black learners and tolerating violence and gangsterism. “As long as things are not right at that school, we will continue disrupting classes. This is our way of making things right since authorities are failing us,” said Sethathe.

Parents at the school object to PASO disrupting classes. On Friday morning a group of parents signed a petition accusing PASO of intimidation, and of forcefully and violently removing minors from school without parental consent.

According to school governing board member Moses Ngwenya: “PASO has been disrupting classes since last week and something should be done. Members of the organisation have been accusing our learners of not being actively involved in their protests.”

He said the Department of Education had promised to keep security on school premises but security guards were removed. He said they were also waiting for the department “to get back to us with regards to investigations into the stabbing incident and to make things right”.

Coloured residents in Geluksdal say they are now afraid to access services in Tsakane.

Logan Fortuin, a parent, said, “The racism fire is being sparked from somewhere and it’s getting out of hand. Our community is a predominant coloured area but we live in harmony with all races. What happened in the stabbing incident was possibly a criminal element. Unfortunately, the race issue is also being politically driven. Geluksdal Secondary was one of the best, all of us went through the school. We need to come together and harmonise the community.”

Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department is aware and deeply concerned about disruption of classes at various schools around Tsakane and Geluksdal.

He said, “Security has been beefed up. However, we call upon parents and learner organisations to work with the department for the betterment of the situation in schools around the area. Disruption of schooling will not yield any positive results.”

Police kept guard outside the school on Friday.