Twenty children were shot when police tried to disperse a group of protesters on the N3 highway outside Harrismith on Monday, Free State police said.
Captain Paul Kubheka said about 4 500 children descended on the N3 highway on Monday morning to highlight concerns about service delivery in the area.
”Steps were taken to calm them down but they forced their way onto the N3,” said Kubheka.
”This had serious implications because it is a national road.”
Kubheka said police opened fire and two youths were hit with pellets — one in the leg and another in the hand.
”They were already on the road and there was no other way of controlling them,” Kubheka said.
Eighteen other children were admitted to the local hospital with pellet wounds.
Kubheka said four other children were admitted to hospital with cuts and bruises after they had been pushed against a wire fence during the protest. None of the children were seriously injured.
Kubheka said the highway was clear by 1pm but the children had moved into the Intabazwe township of Harrismith where they were setting tyres alight.
The area was being monitored by a large police contingent drawn from all the police units in the surrounding areas.
”Police are monitoring the situation. We are trying to avoid a confrontation.”
Kubheka said the youths called themselves ”The Concerned Group” and appeared to be made up of many community organisations. – Sapa