WATCH | Bystander shot in Wits protest was married with children

'I can’t explain it ... Somebody just went crazy': Bheki Cele on shooting of man during student protest

11 March 2021 - 11:01 By Iavan Pijoos and Nomahlubi Sonjica

Mthokozisi Ntumba, who died after being shot in Johannesburg during a student protest over fees, leaves behind four young children and a wife struggling to cope with their loss.

Ntumba, 35, recently obtained a master’s degree and worked as a human settlements planner at the City of Tshwane.

His youngest child is younger than one.

“It is a very sad situation to look at and it is something that you can’t be able to live with as a human being,” police minister Bheki Cele said after a visit to the distraught family at their home in Kempton Park early on Thursday.

Cele was accompanied by provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela and investigators from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Ntumba died on Wednesday when the police fired rubber bullets at protesting Wits University students. The office of the MMC for human settlements in Tshwane said in a statement that he was shot after visiting a doctor.

“Mthokozisi was a diligent, self-driven and resourceful member of the human settlements department. He was someone who thrived in being part of the team responsible for the upliftment of disadvantaged communities,” said the office of the MMC.

He was responsible for more than 20 projects in the city.

Students took the streets under the banner #asinamali protesting against the financial exclusion of those with historical debt, and fighting for first-year students who do not know how their tuition will be financed.

In a video shared on social media, Ntumba could be seen gasping for air on the sidewalk, with bloodstains on his blue shirt and blood on his face.

His death elicited outrage, with the police being criticised by some for using excessive force when dispersing black protesters as opposed to white protesters.   

Police minister Bheki Cele leaves the family home of Mthokozisi Ntumba on March 11 2021, in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. Ntumba died after being hit by rubber bullets when police shot at protesting Wits students in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Police minister Bheki Cele leaves the family home of Mthokozisi Ntumba on March 11 2021, in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. Ntumba died after being hit by rubber bullets when police shot at protesting Wits students in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Cele said that allegation had slowly become more “difficult to defend”.

“That question has been coming and it has been slowly becoming very difficult to defend it,” he said.

“I can’t explain it. It’s something that has no grain of explanation and defence for it. Somebody just went crazy,” he added.

Cele said Ipid provided him with reports of misconduct by police officers on a monthly basis. Some of the matters were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the national police commissioner.  

He said they were in the process of implementing recommendations for police reforms that arose from the Farlam commission report. Cele said more information about this would be made public on March 29.

“There are elements that are already implemented and one of those elements where Farlam was very hard on was the training of the public order policing.”

Police minister Bheki Cele speaks to the media at the family home of Mthokozisi Ntumba on March 11 2021, in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. Ntumba died after being hit by rubber bullets when police shot at protesting Wits students in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Police minister Bheki Cele speaks to the media at the family home of Mthokozisi Ntumba on March 11 2021, in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. Ntumba died after being hit by rubber bullets when police shot at protesting Wits students in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Cele could not confirm whether live ammunition was used on Wednesday. He said the officers involved had not yet been charged.

However, he said justice would prevail and his office would provide the family with the necessary support.

Ipid spokesperson Ndileka Cola said the investigation team was working around the clock processing evidence gathered at the crime scene.

Cola said a post-mortem to determine the actual cause of death would be conducted.

“Family liaison has started and the investigation continues. It is alleged that the young man who was a civilian, who was not part of the protest, had just left the doctor's rooms when he was allegedly shot by the police officers,” she said.

The NPA said six students will appear in court at Hillbrow on Thursday. Five of the students were released on a warning.

NOTE: Police minister Bheki Cele said at a media briefing earlier on Thursday that Ntumba had three children. Ntumba's family told TimesLIVE he had four children. This article has been updated to reflect that.

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