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Thursday, November 12, 2009

SA police chief damns shooting of three-year-old boy

South Africa's police chief has condemned the shooting of a three-year-old boy by an officer.

Bheki Cele dismissed the officer's claim that he fired in self defence, believing the pipe the boy was carrying to be a gun.

He told the BBC the killing was a "reckless criminal act", saying: "Even if it was a real gun, you should not have started by shooting."

But he defended the police's right to use "deadly force" when necessary.

Atlegang Aphane was in a car the police thought was being driven by suspected criminals when he was shot on Tuesday in Midrand, near Johannesburg.

The policeman has been charged with murder and remains in custody.

Mr Cele told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "You could have used other means on the three-year-old."


The police chief was appointed by President Jacob Zuma in July to lead the fight against the country's high levels of crime.

President Zuma said at the time that police should get tough, but said they should not be "trigger happy".

Mr Cele said the police's shoot-to-kill approach had nothing to do with the wrongful shooting of the boy on Tuesday.

"Police have a right to use a deadly force when their life is under threat," he said.

"I don't think that anybody can assess the situation and find that a three-year-old is putting your life in danger and under threat."

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the shooting has caused public outrage and has been widely condemned.

Atlegang's mother Mapule Aphane has accused the policeman of not being remorseful about the shooting.

"I could not believe my eyes when I arrived at the scene.

"He was busy eating a lollipop. I approached him and asked why he killed my son, but he looked at me as if I was crazy," said Ms Aphane, South Africa's Sowetan newspaper reported.

Source: BBC

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