According to provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, false claims were spreading on Facebook that police were involved in the shooting in ongoing violent protests in Barberton.
Police believe that the apparent false rumours about the teen’s death were aimed at sowing anger in the community to reduce their trust in the police.
“To set the record explicitly clear, on the said day, the victim was with a group of friends and one of them, an 18-year-old, had a firearm in his possession.
It is alleged that he shot the 18-year-old protester in the upper body.
“Police were then notified about the incident, rushed to the scene and medical personnel were summoned, [and] the young man was unfortunately certified dead on the scene.”
A murder case was opened and the firearm was seized.
Hlathi said as police collected more information, preliminary investigations revealed that the 18-year-old who allegedly had the firearm in his possession was the one who pulled the trigger.
He has been arrested and is under investigation for murder.
Firearm stolen from police officer
“Further information surfaced and revealed that the firearm was stolen from a police officer during a hijacking incident [in] Masoyi in January. The investigation is under way and police are still searching for the suspects in connection with the hijacking case,” Hlathi said.
The 18-year-old who was arrested for the poster’s murder is expected to appear in the Barberton Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Mpumalanga police commissioner Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma said people who have a malicious intent to dent the police’s image were dangerous because: “They are liars who often do not want to see police working smoothly with the community.”
“Rumours making the rounds that the boy was shot by police are false, unfounded and strongly discredit the police maliciously. We have arrested the alleged suspect but the false message continues to misinform the public. We urge those individuals to withdraw their wrong messages and stop unnecessarily damaging the image of the police. Let me also remind the community that firearms are deadly weapons and I therefore strongly urge you to report those possessing them illegally to prevent unnecessary loss of lives.
“The proliferation of firearms is of great concern and police are currently conducting the 2019/20 Firearm Amnesty which commenced on 1 December 2019 until 31 May 2020, with a clear message appealing to those who are possessing firearms illegally to voluntarily surrender them to their nearest police stations,” said Zuma.