The High Court sitting in Pretoria has arraigned a cop Warrant Officer Hyde Mophosho for killing three protesters in January 2014. The accused on Thursday was convicted for three charges on murder. In 2014, residents of Mothutlung marched in protest because of water shortage in the area.
The former policeman opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition which led to the death of three protesters Enock Seimela, Mike Tshele and Oshiah Rahube.
In 2014, at the public order policing unit, cop Mophoso and seven other policemen were alerted about a public protest in Mothutlung. They were ordered to control the crowd that day. They later returned in the night when the crowd met at a local Councillor’s house before heading to Brits. When dialogue between the leader of the protesting group failed, the policemen were ordered to make use of teargas and fire stun grenades and also open fire with rubber bullets.
According to an eye witness, one of the deceased Mike Tshele who was at the front of the group raised his hands in the air, telling the police men “we are not fighting” ,“ before a loud shot rang out and he fell to the ground”. Tshele died few days later from head injuries, having hit his head on the tarred road.
Mophoso, who made use of his colleague’s gun that day, had earlier denied killing anyone. However, after several debriefing sessions, he confessed to high senior officer Brigadier Modisagaarekwa Mosimanegape that he may have used the live ammunition thinking it was rubber bullets.
During his trial, Mophoso played a mild drama when he denied having said “Marikana”. It would be recalled that the accused earlier mentioned “Marikana” when asked where he got the ammunition from. He also claimed that he didn’t remember saying “Marikana”. The judge simply labelled his explanation as “absurd”.
Judge Lettie Molopa also found out that the former policeman used banned SSG ammunition to control the crowd. She also discarded claims by the accused that he never had the intention of killing anyone. She accepted evidence from one of his colleague and made it known to the the accused that he intentionally killed the poor protesters. If not, the accused won’t have stopped shooting and disappeared behind the police Nyala when he heard a loud sound of heavy noise.
The evidence brought by police ballistics expert Chris Mangena was accepted by the judge. The evidence shows that SSG ammunition are usually longer and heavier with different colours. Also, that firing a rubber bullet is usually different from SSG ammunition. A pellet is a non-spherical projectile specially made to be fired from an air gun. Pellets are different from bullets used in firearms because of the it’s pressure.
The judge described the policeman as a witness of low standard, who hurriedly contradicts himself in order to fit into evidences provided in the law court. This, he does by relating different versions of what happened during the protest. She blamed the cop for intentionally opening fire on the protesters with live ammunition knowing that it was deadly. She also pushed the claim by the policeman that the commander did not check the weapons issued to them that evening aside. Rather, she upheld the evidence from his colleagues stating that the weapons and other other necessary procedures were properly handled.
Mophoso’s sentencing proceedings have been shifted to 18th February. Perhaps, this story might restore the hope of a common man. Justice is costly but whenever it comes around, the poor and rich smiles.