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26 June 2011 at 08:34 - Posted by Anonymous

Real hero’s identity a mystery


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Lucky to be alive: Innocent Mkhize considers the man in the background, an undercover police captain in a police task team, to be his hero after the man intervened in an attempted robbery and saved his life in a shooting incident. Picture: Cara Viereckl

Innocent Mkhize wishes he could have been struck by the bullets armed robbers fired at him on Friday.

Instead, two young schoolchildren were injured in the crossfire as their school broke up for the mid-year holidays.

“It would have been better if they had shot me instead of the kids,” said a traumatised Mkhize, an operations manager at Super Guys Security, as he stood outside Roseneath Primary School in Parktown.

Rethehile Motebe, 7, was struck in the shoulder, while Tebogo Lesejane, 10, was shot in the hand.

“It makes me feel so sad.”

But if it hadn’t been for a plainclothes policeman on the scene, he might have been killed. The Saturday Star has chosen not to reveal the hero’s identity, which is known to the newspaper.

“He was alone and very brave. He was the guy who saved my life. I told him that he is my hero. Bullets were flying past him. I don’t know how he didn’t get hit. If he wasn’t there, this could have turned out very differently for me.”

The drama began just after 11am yesterday when Mkhize was ambushed in his security company bakkie on the corner of Empire and Queens roads in Parktown.

The gunmen demanded the R100 000 Mkhize had just withdrawn from a bank in Rosebank for a client.

Across the road, the final bell had sounded and hundreds of Roseneath’s pupils had begun streaming out. Some were waiting outside for their parents, others were crossing the road.

One of the suspects pointed a gun at Mkhize and fired twice – but each time the gun jammed.

The undercover police officer, who, by chance, was on patrol in the area, drew his gun, sparking a fierce gunfight – with the children in between.

“There were kids all over the place,” Mkhize said. “It was the last day of school and they spent more time chatting because they won’t see each other for three weeks. The sad part is it was just next to a school. If they (the robbers) were keeping a close trail on me, they could’ve caught up with me somewhere else (to rob me) – not here.”

It is still unclear whose bullets injured the children.

“One of the suspects ran up the road and you could see he was injured but he was running in the same direction as all the kids were walking,” said Mkhize. “They picked him up in their Jetta at the end of the road and got away.”

Hours later a man sought help for multiple gun shot wounds at Alexandra Clinic. Police pounced, but two more suspects are still at large.

Rethehile, in Grade 1, and Tebogo, in Grade 5, were taken to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Tebogo’s father, Samuel Lesejane, told the Saturday Star his daughter’s hand had been fractured, while little Rethehile was in a stable condition.

Lesejane, who lives a block away from the school, described the shooting of his daughter as a “great shock”.

“I just didn’t expect a thing like this to happen at school. But I praise God and I’m just thankful there was no loss of life.

“My daughter is a lovely and sweet girl and she is in pain now. She told me she can feel the bullet in her hand. I hope her hand will be okay, but she is young and will recover.”

A teacher at Roseneath, who declined to be named, said: “This should never happen at a school. Even robbers must think about doing these kinds of things outside a school.”

Gauteng education spokesman Charles Phahlane promised that the department would provide trauma counselling to teachers and pupils in need of it.

Mkhize suspects someone at Nedbank tipped the robbers off.

“The guys knew what they were coming for and it looks like an inside job.”

But the robbers didn’t know he had already handed most of the money – R90 000 – to a colleague in a parking lot at the Rosebank Mall, and had only R10 000 in his possession.

“As they approached me from their Jetta behind me, it didn’t click, but when they said they want the money, I was like ‘OK, now it’s started to make much more sense’. If the police officer didn’t start shooting them, they would’ve shot me. They wanted the R100 000 and I think they would’ve killed me because I only had R10 000.

“We’re in the security business, we’re casualties. Every day when I wake up I ask God to protect me from all the wickedness. But it was not my time to go today and I’m realising that. All the trauma is sinking in now and it feels terrible.”

A spokeswoman for Nedbank’s Rosebank branch said the bank would investigate if Mkhize approached the bank. - Saturday Star

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