The alleged gunman who handed himself over to police after he allegedly opened fire on a group of protesters, killing a 15-year-old Lichtenburg boy and wounding two others, says he was only protecting his life and believes he will be exonerated

Jaco du Plooy, 46, appeared before a packed court gallery in the town’s Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

He faces charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

“I am innocent… I am not violent,” Du Plooy wrote in his affidavit, read out by his lawyer Peet du Plessis during his formal bail application.

Before court started on Thursday morning, a group of community members gathered outside the courtroom in support of the boy who was killed, Joseph Tshukudu. Heavily-armed police officers guarded the entrance of the court, preventing the large group from entering.

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Du Plooy – dressed in brown chinos, black shoes, a white shirt and dark brown leather jacket – appeared calm before court. While his lawyer read out his affidavit, the medium-built man stood with his hands behind his back, fiddling with a water bottle.

The court gallery was packed with members of the public and reporters.

Du Plooy said that on Tuesday he picked up six of his workers and “on route back we were diverted and we were attacked by a group”.

“They had stones and rocks as they were attacking us,” he explained.

Du Plooy alleged that the teenager was part of a violent crowd who intended to kill them.

He said there was no prima facie case against him.

He said he took out his firearm and fired several shots, adding that he was merely defending his life and his workers.

He also told the court that the contents of the police docket had not been made available to him.

Joseph’s family sat in the second row of the public court gallery. His mother, Lilian Tshukudu, wrapped herself in a green blanket, often weeping in silence.

While proceedings were underway, a group of residents protested outside the court.

Du Plooy handed himself over at about 22:00 on Tuesday evening.

Police say Joseph was killed along the Boikhutso Road. He is expected to be buried on Saturday, 21 October.