Rubber bullet death: 'I'm coming back' - Tshwane husband's last words to wife before he was killed

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Community members protesting outside of Mamelodi East police station after Doctor Setlai was shot and killed by Tshwane metro police.
Community members protesting outside of Mamelodi East police station after Doctor Setlai was shot and killed by Tshwane metro police.
News24/ Alex Mitchley
  • A man was shot and killed by Tshwane metro police officers on Tuesday night as they were attempting to disperse an angry crowd near Baviaanspoort.
  • It is alleged that the crowd were trying to restore their illegal electricity connections that had been disconnected earlier that day.
  • The deceased's wife has remembered him as a people's person who was always trying to help the community.

The man killed by a rubber bullet fired by Tshwane metro police officers has been described as a people's person and a leader in the community who was always helping people.

Doctor Setlai, 51, died on Tuesday evening after Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers tried dispersing an allegedly unruly crowd using rubber bullets near Baviaanspoort.

TMPD spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said metro officers, along with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Electricity Department, embarked on an operation to remove illegal connections in Leeufontein near Baviaanspoort in Tshwane on Tuesday morning.

Mahamba said the operation was a success as illegal transformers and illegal cables worth an estimated R800 000 were removed.

READ | Man shot and killed as Tshwane metro police officers fire rubber bullets to disperse crowd

However, at around 22:00, TMPD received a complaint about residents illegally reconnecting electricity in the area.

"A vehicle was dispatched to investigate. On arrival, the TMPD members found that the complaint was positive and that community members were busy with reconnections," Mahamba said.

"The crowd became unruly when they saw the officers, and the TMPD members had to call for backup."

"When the backup arrived, the crowd became more aggressive and threw stones at the TMPD members and their vehicles."

Mahamba said metro police officers dispersed the crowd by firing rubber bullets.

As residents ran in different directions and the crowd cleared, metro police officers saw one resident lying on the ground.

"It was discovered that he had been hit with a rubber bullet and unfortunately died instantly," Mahamba said.

'I knew it was him'

Bella Morake, 41, identified the deceased as her husband, Setlai.

Morake said she had just gotten home when her husband met her at the house to tell her that he was going to a meeting.

"When he left, he said 'I'm coming back, we going to a men's meeting'."

When he didn't arrive later in the early evening, she called him to find out where he was. Setlai answered and said he was almost done and would be home shortly.

While waiting for her husband, Morake said she heard gunshots ring out. She then received a call from a friend who said she could not get hold of her husband, who was with Setlai.

Morake tried calling Setlai, but he didn't answer.

She then decided to leave the house to look for him.

"When I got on the other side, I found him on the floor and was [he] covered, and I only saw his shoes. Although he was covered, I could see [it was him] by his shoes," Morake said.


Morake was shattered when she realised that it was her husband, lying dead on the ground.

Sobbing uncontrollably in her two-bedroom home set against the mountain in Leeufontein, Morake said she did not know how the family would cope with Setlai's death.

Apart from the emotional grief shared by the family, there were also financial worries as Setlai was also the breadwinner.

"I only do part-time jobs, and nowadays, it's hard."

"He was renovating our home in KwaNdebele. So, there are people he must pay, and he needs to finish the house on that side. He had everything."

"He was supposed to make sure his mother's tombstone is unveiled after he purchased it. But that hasn't been done."

"I don't know who will finish all of this."

"I don't know who will look after the children and their needs. My money won't be able to do anything."

People's person

Morake said her husband was a people's person who always helped his community and never asked for, or expected payment.

"Even with the water crisis, he helped the people. He was a person who was helpful," Morake said.

"We are very heartsore; the whole family looked up to him."

Ernest Magane, the deputy chairperson of the Vhathuphanda community forum in the Leeufontein area, described Setlai as a respected person and a community leader.

"A father, husband and community leader has fallen," Magane said.

Setlai is survived by his wife and two sons aged 17 and 12.


On Wednesday afternoon, a group of around 100 residents marched to the Mamelodi East police station demanding justice.

Magane said that as a respected member of the community, Setlai's death had angered people.

"The whole community is traumatised, but we have been engaging them and trying to keep them calm," Magane added.

Doctor Setlai
Community members protesting outside of Mamelodi East police station after Doctor Setlai was shot and killed by Tshwane metro police.
News24 News24/ Alex Mitchley

Magane said informal settlements in the area had been fighting for electricity for the past six or seven years and that lighting the informal settlements up was a top priority if crime was to be successfully addressed.

He said crime was rife in Leeufontein and that Setlai was one of the people trying to ensure that people were safe.

TMPD have confirmed that they were investigating the matter internally, while a case of murder was being investigated by police and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

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