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Officer arrested as Cosas digs in on prelims

The police officer who allegedly fired a warning shot that killed 17-year-old Nontsikelelo Anna Nokela, a grade 10 pupil from Allanridge in the Free State, was arrested after the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) heard eyewitness accounts of the death.

“We arrested him [on Tuesday night] because witnesses [said] he threatened learners, telling them he would shoot at them if they continued to protest,” ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian.

The pupil was shot on Monday morning during protests against the writing of prelims at the LA Wesi and Mosala secondary schools in Allanridge near Welkom. The officer — who Dlamini declined to name — was due to appear in the Odendaalsrus Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

As prelim exams continued to be disrupted in pockets across the country, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) defied mounting criticism of its activity.

Cosas secretary general Antonio Carelse said on Wednesday that the organisation had moderated its initial requirement that prelims be scrapped to a demand that they be postponed. But every learner should be awarded the full 25% the prelims represented in the final matric mark.

Cosas, the ANC Youth League, the Young Communist League and the South African Student Congress were due to meet Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday, Carelse said.

If their demands were not met, he warned: “Watch this space.”

Information from Cosas’s provincial representatives and some official sources suggests prelim disruption is on the increase. Though national figures are yet to emerge, Motshekga said on Wednesday she “wanted to assure the public that most schools are fully functional and the prelim exams are smoothly under way”.

The Free State education department said prelims in two of the province’s five districts had been severely disrupted.

Four schools in Parys, two in Allanridge and an unspecified number in Viljoenskroon, Bothaville, Henneman and Ventersburg were not writing their prelim exams, said departmental spokesperson Howard Ndaba.

After talks with Cosas, it was agreed that exams would resume on Monday, Ndaba said. He was uncertain whether the pupils whose exams had been disrupted would write the same papers other schools and districts had already used.

Other provinces that recorded disruptions were:

  • Eastern Cape: In Zwelitsha protesting pupils barricaded roads and in Motherwell marchers burned tyres in the streets.
    Police brigadier Marinda Mills said police fired rubber bullets at pupils on Wednesday, but no injuries were reported. Disruptions were also reported in Bisho and Uitenhage.
  • Limpopo: The situation was “chaotic” the whole week, said Shocky Masha, provincial Cosas chairperson, especially in the Polokwane and Waterberg districts. “We will continue until our demands are met,” Masha said. “I wish the government would understand this.”
  • Gauteng: Cosas spokesperson Ntsako Mogobe said on Wednesday that disruptions were continuing in Soweto, Mabopane and Ekurhuleni. “We are not out to be violent, but if we are confronted by violence and police, we will push back,” he said.
  • Mpumalanga: There were few protests, Cosas spokesperson Tefo Radebe said, because the congress’s structures there had been disbanded.
  • Western Cape: Cosas said there were no disruptions. “As much as we see the need for action against prelims, we cannot take it as we are currently under the Demonic Alliance,” provincial spokesperson Ayanda Tomose said.

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