Teen's death in Slovo Park protests probed by Ipid, police involvement unclear

02 August 2023 - 12:27
By Rorisang Kgosana
Sixteen-year-old Karabo Chaka was allegedly killed by police during service delivery protests in Slovo Park.
Image: Gareth Wilson Sixteen-year-old Karabo Chaka was allegedly killed by police during service delivery protests in Slovo Park.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of a 16-year-old boy who was allegedly shot during service delivery protests in Slovo Park.

Karabo Chaka was shot in the back of the head by a police officer in the informal settlement south of Johannesburg on Monday, according to the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri).

Residents have been protesting about a lack of water and sanitation and a stalled upgrade to the settlement. This led to the N12 highway being blocked, resulting in police firing rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters.

“Karabo is yet another victim of violent policing by the SAPS. While the specific details surrounding Karabo’s death remain unclear, we believe it is further evidence of the police’s reliance on indiscriminate and deadly force, and a failure to facilitate protest through means such as communication, negotiation and de-escalation,” Seri researcher Thato Masiangoako said.

Ipid spokesperson Ronnie Raburabu said the cause of death was being investigated and information from the family is that Chaka died in hospital.

“We don’t know much because we were not notified about it. It is only now that the police themselves said they don’t know about it and those are the ones that were at the scene. What we are trying to follow up is to check whether the death has anything to do with the police and that might take some time for us to verify,” he said.

Seri said SAPS directives are that police should avoid using force at all costs and display high tolerance. If force is unavoidable, the degree thereof should be proportional to the threat, Masiangoako said.

“This would require the police to act in a manner that is responsible, with an awareness of their duty to protect life and prevent damage to property. Only a commander may instruct the use of any force and the use of rubber bullets in crowd management to disperse is only used in extreme circumstances.”

Raburabu emphasised that police do not use live rounds during protests and said investigators should be given time to ascertain what occurred.

“The police reported everything they have done, including disclosing the discharged number of rubber bullets.

“It is important for our investigators to verify the facts.”