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Did policeman fire handgun at Philippi school protest?

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Eyewitness says policeman pulled out a handgun and fired a single round

Photo of a policeman with a handgun drawn
The photograph Anele Selekwa says he took of a policeman pulling out his handgun when Philippi High School students were protesting at the Philippi train station.
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On Tuesday, 15 Philippi High School students were arrested for public violence. Minors were released into their parents’ custody, but seven students were detained overnight at the Nyanga police station according to police. They were not charged and they were released on Wednesday.

Philippi High School students have been protesting since Monday for a new school. 

According to eyewitness Anele Selekwa, a researcher at the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG) and a supporter of the Philippi High students, at one point during a series of sporadic protests a policeman pulled out a handgun and discharged a single round.

Western Cape police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana ignored GroundUp’s questions about the handgun and only confirmed that “15 learners were arrested for public violence in Heinz Park after a protest in their school. Seven of them were juveniles and were dealt with in terms of Child Justice Act”. She did not respond to follow-up questions about the handgun.

GroundUp is awaiting a response from Nyanga station commander Brigadier Vuyisile Ncata.

Selekwa said trouble started when around ten residents held a counter protest to stop protesting teachers and students from entering the high school grounds.

Police intervened, firing rubber bullets at the students. The students threw bricks and stones. After they were dispersed, students made their way to the Philippi train station to regroup.

Students debated whether to go home or go to the police station and press charges against the counter protesters, according to Selekwa.

Tyres were burnt on the railway lines and police again used stun grenades and rubber bullets. This is when the alleged handgun incident took place.

Students then made their way to the main road and blocked a section of the R300 between Mitchells Plain and Samora. The students were once again dispersed with rubber bullets.

Mandisa Nora Cenga, the school principal, said the school was operating. 

Update: On Thursday morning Noloyiso Rwexana responded to GroundUp’s further questions. “According our information no live ammunition was used during the protest, police took action and used stun grenade and rubber bullets,” she said.

Photo of students protesting
Philippi students protest on Monday. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

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