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Shot and killed by police

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DLAKADLA – "Police killed our son. They didn’t say why but just shot him in front of his children."

These are words of a distraught Mngometulu family, which added that they are still waiting for answers as to why their son, Thokozani (31), who was a cane cutter in Tongaat, South Africa, was shot twice in the left pelvis at close range while alighting from a vehicle.

In the recent past, police have been accused of killing suspects and the Police Commissioner, Isaac Magagula, has come out to strongly condemn police brutality.

The latest incident occurred at a Mngometulu homestead about two weeks ago at Dlakadla, an area situated in the Shiselweni region under the Lubuli Constituency.

Witnessed

Thokozani’ sister, Buyisile who witnessed the shooting, said Thokozani had come home with a friend, Ayanda, for a visit when he met his untimely death. "It was a Wednesday, when I saw a greyish sedan enter the homestead at around 9am. There were about five men inside the vehicle.

"After alighting from their vehicle and without greeting or introducing themselves, they demanded to know the whereabouts of my brother. I told them that I last saw him the previous day but they accused me of lying. The man who was asking the questions wore a black T-shirt," said Buyisile when narrating the incident as if it happened yesterday.

She said while she was attending to one of the men, Thoko-zani’s friend Ayanda emerged from one of the houses.

The other men pounced on him and started assaulting him while asking if he was Thokozani," said Buyisile.

Realising that things were getting out of control, she said she decided to go inform their uncle. "As I was walking away to my uncle’s place, one of the men who wore tracksuit pants threatened to assault me, saying that I was going to call Thokozani alerting him about their presence.

"I told him that I was not going to make any call and even if I made the call, I asked what would I say to Thokozani because I do not even know who they were. He did not take my word for it, but insisted that I should lead them to where we had hid Thokozani. He then started assaulting me with an open hand across the face. At that moment my other older brother Themba came to my rescue.

"While we were talking, a bottle green car entered the yard. After parking, Thokozani stepped out of the car. One of the men ran towards him and pointed a gun at him. Thokozani raised his arms to show that he wasn’t armed. The officer then shot him twice in the pelvis without saying anything," she said.

Buyisile, who was in the company of relatives when relating events leading to the fatal shooting, said Thokozani clutched his wound and said ‘wangibulala mnetfu’ (you are killing me my brother) before falling on his back.

As Thokozani, a father of four lay on the ground, one of the officers rushed to search him and found a gun tucked in his pants at the back.

"One of the men tried to fire a shot using the gun, but nothing happened. I think there were no bullets. He then tried to place it in his hands but we asked why he was doing that and the others threatened to assault us.

"Fortunately, Thokozani, who I believe was already dead, could not grasp the gun. They then threw it about a metre or two away from his body," she alleged.

While all the events unfolded, Buyisile said one of the deceased’s children (11 years old) and his grandmother watched.

She said the officers then cordoned off the scene and ordered the family to keep away.

The police then undressed her brother, said Buyisile.

"We were able to dial 999 (police emergency number) and we were told that officers from Siteki would be dispatched. When the officers from Siteki arrived they took pictures and measurements around the scene. It was only at that time that we realised that the men who shot and killed my brother were actually officers from Lubuli Police Station," she alleged.

Statement

Buyisile said the police never recorded a statement from any family member at the scene but left with Thokozani’s corpse in a white body bag. Thokozani was buried on Saturday.

She said it been approximately two weeks after his death, and they, as a family, still do not know why he was shot and killed.

Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba confirmed the shooting incident.

He said Thokozani had been reported by some community members of being armed and terrori-sing them.

Mamba confirmed that Thoko-zani had been shot by the police from the Lubuli Police Post. "However we are still not sure what necessitated the shooting," he said

Granny told to hang herself or take weevil tablets

DLAKADLA – "I was told to go hang myself or swallow weevil tablets," alleged Thokozani’s grandmother.

The old woman, Domba Mngometulu was describing how the police treated them during the incident.

Like any normal person who had witnessed a relative being killed, Gogo Domba said she was grief stricken and cried.

Instead of being sympathetic, the police ordered her to stop making noise, she said.

In a frail voice, the old woman said: "Ngathi ngikhala, bathi kimi thatha intambo uyikhunge noma uthenge amaphilisi udle wona ufe njengaye lo ofileyo." (While I was crying they said I should take a rope and go hang myself or purchase weevil tablets and swallow them so I could die like the deceased.")

Thokozani’s sister and mother Buyisile and Minah said they were also ordered to stop crying as they were making noise.

Minah said she was saddened when told not to come close to her son’s body.

A neighbour, Norah Siyaya, who is also a relative to the Mngometulu family, said she was harshly ordered to go back to her homestead as she approached to find out what the commotion was all about.

Siyaya said her attention was drawn to the Mngometulu homestead by a loud noise, which she mistook for cars colliding.

"I then saw some men assaulting another and the children were crying," said Siyaya who was sitting next to Minah’s sister, Reginah Ngcamphalala.

The police violated the old woman’s right to grieve, according to Chairman of Lawyers for Human Rights Maxwell Nka-mbule. "You cannot talk like that when someone is mourning; it’s unheard off that people could be so insensitive. We believe the legal profession, especially, we the human rights lawyers will be willing to take the matter up and assist this family," Nkambule said.

Mum wants answers

 

DLAKADLA – Thokozani’s mother, Minah Mngometulu, collapsed and became unconscious when she saw her son’s body lying in a pool of blood a few metres from his stick and mud house.

Minah was from her parental home when she got a message that she should rush home. According to Buyisile, they had to pour cold water on their mother for her to recover from the shock.

When asked if police informed them why Thokozani had been shot, both Buyisile and her mother responded, "Asazi lutho. Abashongo lutho" (We do not know anything. They never said anything.")

However, Thokozani’s elder brother Themba pointed out that the police only told them that they were still investigating.

Adding, Buyisile said they still do not know if Thokozani had committed murder or had robbed someone.

Reacting to reports that the family was still clueless about what might have led to the shooting and killing of Thokozani, Chairman of Lawyers for Human Rights Maxwell Nkambule said people would lose confidence in the police.

He said this was more so because people had seen their relatives and friends dying in police custody.

Nkambule suggested that the commissioner of police should take responsibility and bring to book the officers who were involved in the matter.

He said they had noted that the police always effected an arrest before an investigation, which he described as wrong.

"Their job is to investigate and take the matter to court, not to prosecute. Everyone who is responsible must answer to that. They should not take the law into their own hands and kill," he said.

Nkambule said they believed that citizens of the country should not be afraid of the police.

Task team to investigate shooting - commissioner

MBABANE – The Commissioner of Police, Isaac Magagula, has instituted an inquiry into the death of Thokozani Mngometulu.

This was disclosed by Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba in an interview.

"The commissioner has set up a task team to investigate what transpired on that particular day. The team is still to report back to him. So first, it will be internal. Meaning, we cannot comment because we are still investigating," he said when asked for a comment.

Mamba pointed out that the complaints were made by family members of the deceased.

When pressed further, Mamba said they were still trying to establish some of the facts leading to the death of the suspect.

Asked about the time frame of the investigation, Mamba said it was at its final stages.

Explaining the process of effecting an arrest, Mamba said suspects could be arrested in the presence of people.

"In this case, it might be different because we are waiting for a report on what really transpired. But there is no need to harass a suspect when making an arrest. You first have to caution the suspect according to the judges’ rules that you are being charged and you are being arrested for this offence. There should be no confrontation, unless the person is resisting arrest," he said.

On police brutality, Mamba said it was not their intention to use force, but were forced by circumstances. He explained that some situations and the kind of people they worked with were different.

He illustrated that some suspects were violent and others were armed, which could lead to police using minimum force.

Mamba pointed out that the commissioner condemned the torturing of suspects because he believed a person should be investigated first before an arrest was effected.

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