The killed boy, Sedi Khoza, 17, whose mother was putting him through school by gathering the wild African marula fruit in the veldt each day, was hit in the face by a bullet and killed instantly, a classmate said.
Journalists Thabisile Khoza and Oris Mnisi reported from Bushbuckridge that the three policemen from the nearby Nhala police station had reacted to a complaint that two schoolboys had carried guns.
After the shooting of their classmate, the two suspected boys were captured - but found to be unarmed.
The policemen had rushed into the classroom at around 9:30am. "We are very sorry," said shaken provincial police superintendent Abie Khoabane afterwards, promising an internal investigation. The names of the police officers were not released to the news media. It's also not mentioned in the first news report about the boy's death if the policemen were suspended from their jobs pending the investigation.
"We send condolances to the family. Police were not there to kill anyone, but were attending to a complaint. Unfortunately, someone was accidentally shot and killed." The boy's sister, Gift Khoza, said ' the police should cover all the funeral costs'.
School principal Grace Nxina said she could not comment as she was still in shock.
Sedi was sitting at the back of the class when he was shot. "They stormed in with their guns ready to shoot. The two (suspected) boys ran behind Sedi, but one policeman shot at them," said a pupil who witnessed the shooting. He said the bullet had hit the wall, ricocheted and hit Sedi in the face, killing him instantly.
Khoza's inconsolable mother, Lucy Sithole, 46, was called to the school and was heard crying: "I send my son to school with the money I get from selling fruit, but today police have killed him.
"They were supposed to protect him." see
Mrs Sithole is one of the region's 2,400 women harvesters of the wild marula fruit, found in huge abundance throughout the region and the source of many African legends. Archaeological evidence shows the marula tree was a source of nutrition as long as ago as 10,000 years B.C.
Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, subspecies caffera
, is one of Africa' botanical treasures. Not only the fruit, but also the nut, are rich in minerals and vitamins. Legends abound on the multiple uses of the tree, the bark, the leaves, fruit, nut and kernels.
Most well known as the fruit that 'drives elephants mad' when dropped to the ground and lightly fermented, marula is a much-loved tree in the veld in Africa. It was a dietary mainstay in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia throughout ancient times. Abundant in fruit and in numbers, the marula tree is found widely in many of South Africa's Game Parks and rural communities including Limpopo provinces in Zimbabwe and South Africa, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.