Moments before he was hit by a bullet to his forehead which ended his life instantly, 15-year-old Joseph Tshukudu was redirecting motorists to avoid a barricaded road and a protesting mob.
“He is only a boy ... how could he have been a threat to an armed adult man? What pushed him to draw that gun when he only had three young boys in front of him?” asked Joseph’s mournful father, Willem Motlhoki, earlier today.
Joseph, who dropped out of school in Grade 9, was shot about 400m away from his house in Blydeville township, Lichtenburg, during a service delivery protest yesterday morning. Shortly before Joseph was killed, a truck loaded with live chickens was torched by protesters.
His father knew it was dangerous as he walked from Blydeville to work in Lichtenburg town in the North West.
Motlhoki said he met his son in the street and ordered him to go home. It was volatile in the area with police using rubber bullets to disperse protesters amid constant running battles.
Motlhoki was pleased and relieved on seeing his son’s back as he walked towards home. Motlhoki walked to work knowing that his son would be safe at home.
Moments later, Joseph left home and promised his mother, Dora Tshukudu, that he would soon be back. Little did she know that it would the last time she would see him alive.
Eyewitness Joseph Esengmang said he walked past three boys – the deceased and two others – and saw them directing motorists away from the barricaded road.
“They were far away from the actual crowd of protesters. Just after I walked past them a white bakkie stopped and the white man came out and started screaming at the boys: “Ek gaan julle doodmaak (I’m going to kill you).”
“Then he fired three times, went back into his car and drove off. When I got to them, Joseph had a bullet wound on his forehead and was already dead while the other one was shot in the arm and the other one around the stomach area.”
Esengmang said he knew the suspect as a local businessman who owns a construction company and a farm among others. Community members said he was known to carry a firearm all the time.
Earlier today, Joseph’s sickly mother struggled to hold back tears as she sat on a bed, consoled by relatives.
“Why my child? My one and only child ... why him?” an inconsolable Tshukudu asked.
“He promised to come back home. He was in a good mood ... I saw him standing in the street dancing only for a young boy to come back later telling me that he has been shot around the eye.”
The situation remained tense in the farming town of Lichtenburg today. Residents have embarked on a similar protest as the one earlier this year and said they were promised action by the provincial government.
A task team consisting of five MECs was set up to look into their demands which includes a high school and RDP houses. Smoke from burning tyres could still be seen hanging over the township while traffic leading to Coligny and coming into Lichtenburg from there had to be redirected to avoid Blydeville.
Community spokesperson Philip Lottering said the community has been widely angered by the shooting of young Joseph.
A community meeting was underway from which a decision would be taken on whether to discontinue the protest or not.
Meanwhile, police said the 46-year-old suspect handed himself over last night. He was expected to appear at the Lichtenburg Magistrates’ Court tomorrow. Community members have promised to go to court and picket during his appearance.
The suspect faces charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder for the bullet wounds sustained by a 17-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man who were with Joseph.