Cops who shot Shaeera Kalla to be subject of investigation

Former Wits SRC president Shaeera Kalla will spend the night in hospital, where doctors will observe her condition, after being shot 13 times with rubber bullets. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Former Wits SRC president Shaeera Kalla will spend the night in hospital, where doctors will observe her condition, after being shot 13 times with rubber bullets. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

While Shaeera Kalla was recovering from the injuries she sustained after police shot her 13 times at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) west campus, the Gauteng provincial police commissioner paid a visit to the #FeesMustFall leader to open a docket against the offending police officers.

Kalla’s friends and family waited at the hospital’s emergency wing waiting room as medics dressed her wounds in another room. Family members say that she is fine and recovering, but they were nervous that should the police find where Kalla was receiving treatment, they would arrest her. Their fears come amid the arrests of student leaders across universities in the country including Wits student leader, Mcebo Dlamini.

But the police managed to find Kalla. On Thursday afternoon, three police officials walked into the emergency wing of the hospital where Kalla was being treated. The police officers, with the Gauteng provincial police commissioner Deliwe de Lange among them, walked up to reception to ask where Kalla was. Her family members followed the police and later said that the South African Police Service  were there to verify Kalla’s wounds and open a docket. A detective later arrived.

“We can see she’s in pain,” De Lange told the Mail & Guardian after visiting Kalla. “I told her we must open a case so we can investigate.”

De Lange said that she did not know what had transpired when Kalla was shot and police officials are now looking for first-hand accounts. In normal circumstances, when a police officer is under investigation, a docket is opened and the case is then handed to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) for an independent and fair investigation. SAPS confirmed the case would be reverted to IPID.

Kalla will be in hospital overnight, where doctors will observe her condition. Doctors at the hospital confirmed to Kalla’s family and friends that she had been shot 13 times.  In a Facebook post, Kalla mentioned the police visit and the shooting.

“I was shot 13 times in the back, at a very close range, in a targeted attack on students. I am currently in hospital and I will have to stay in according to the doctors,” Kalla’s Facebook message read. 

“In extreme pain in the emergency section the hospital, I was greeted by three policemen, who demanded I provide them with a statement.”

A student who witnessed what happened also narrated to media the details of the shooting shortly after the incident. 

The shooting 
Yamkela Gola stood at the front of the protest next to Kalla at Wits’s west campus. He told journalists that police had boxed students in before they began shooting. On the right and left of the students were buildings, while behind them and in front were cops. 

Students were marching towards the Science Stadium where they planned to have a mass meeting to discuss a plan of action, when they saw public order police in front of them. Kalla walked ahead to explain to the police that the students were on their way to a meeting, Gola said.

“She was explaining this to the cops and the cops didn’t want to hear it. Students were starting to shout,” Gola said.

The students began panicking when they saw the cops in front of them. Kalla told Gola to go back to the students in an effort to calm them down.

A few moments later, five cops shot Kalla in the back.

“She turned around when she heard the panic from students while students were shouting, she was calming students down,” Gola said.

Gola says he saw five police officers shooting. Kalla attempted to run, he said, but he went back to help her. According to Gola, police were at close range when they shot Kalla. Kalla was treated by campus health staff, before she was taken in an ambulance to the hospital.

A number of students were injured on Thursday, with one student being treated for a dislocated knee after she fell while running from police. Kalla’s fellow leader in the #FeesMustFall movement at Wits, Busisiwe Seabe, was also treated for burn wounds as a result of a stun grenade and for difficulty breathing after inhaling teargas.

The aftermath and Wits response 
Wits students continued marching as fellow students were being treated, protesting to demonstrate that they were undeterred. Some students protested outside campus grounds and student leader Vuyani Pambo was arrested and taken into a police van, before being released shortly after.

Earlier this week, SAPS Lieutenant General Kgomotso Phahlane announced that 567 students had been arrested in #FeesMustFall protests, including Wits student leader Mcebo Dlamini, who was denied bail and is currently being held in Sun City Prison until his trial date in November. 

Masixole Mlandu, a student leader from the University of Cape Town, was released on bail on Thursday, along with four other students, after spending a week at Pollsmoor Prison in the Western Cape.

On Thursday, Wits struggled to make contact with the SAPS spokesperon, but responded to Kalla’s shooting, saying the univeristy does not condone violence.

“Wits condemns all forms of violence whether it is perpetrated by police security or students,” Shirona Patel, Wits spokesperson, said.

Students, meanwhile, have criticised the way in which police have reacted to protests, saying that teargas and rubber bullets have been released in residences during late night raids.

The Gauteng provinicial police commissioner said a docket must be opened to investigate what happened to Kalla, but students have said they are sceptical of any investigation because they are worried that it will not be treated fairly. Kalla will remain in hospital for treatment and recovery. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography.
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