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ARRESTED COMMUNITY POLICE BLAME COPS

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MBABANE - Community police members of Maliyaduma, who were arrested for murder, were baffled to learn from other inmates that the deceased was allegedly heard screaming during interrogation by the police a few hours before their arrest.


The deceased, Sibusiso Mhlanga, who was 32 years old, was apprehended by members of the community policing forum at Maliyaduma for stealing solar panels. They are said to have called Manzini police, who drove away with him at around 5pm on the day of his arrest.


One of the arrested members of the community police form, Sifiso Mgonodi Dlamini, said at 10pm on the same day, the police returned to the area and arrested him and others.
He alleged that the police informed them that Mhlanga had died.


In the cell they were locked up in, according to Sifiso, there was a resident of Maliyaduma, Mduduzi Fakudze, who allegedly informed them that he heard Mhlanga screaming and that he suddenly went silent in a nearby interrogation room.
Mduduzi alleged that he peeped through an air inlet or opening up on the wall inside the cell and saw police officers assaulting Mhlanga with an electric cable. Sifiso was arrested with Lungelo Gwebu, Simanga Fakudze and Sandile Maseko. They were, however, later released, according to Sifiso, without being given reasons.


Charged


Other members of the community police form, Sifiso Mthethwa, Mlungisi Mavimbela and Siboniso Gwebu, were later arrested and charged with the murder of Mhlanga. They are currently on trial for Mhlanga’s murder before Judge Doris Tshabalala. They are represented by Vusi Thomo of Thomo and Maziya Attorneys, while Crown Counsel Melusi Lukhele prosecutes in the matter.
Sifiso was one of the State witnesses and he testified last Wednesday. He told the court that he was in church on February 23, 2014 when he received a call from Siboniso’s wife, who informed him that a certain man was stealing solar panels at a Zwane homestead.


He said he quickly left the church service and rushed to the scene where he found Mhlanga sitting on the ground with the solar panels placed next to him. Sifiso submitted that the owner of the solar panels, Sandile Maseko, as well as Simanga and Lungelo, were with the suspect.
He narrated that Mhlanga informed them that his parental home was in Siteki but he resided at Fairview in Manzini. Mhlanga tried to run away but Sifiso said they quickly apprehended him, handcuffed him and called the police.
He alleged that while they questioned him about how he came to the area, Lungelo and Mavimbela assaulted him on the buttocks with sticks.


Sifiso stated that he advised them to stop assaulting him since he had called the police who said they were on their way.
The police, according to Sifiso, arrived at 4:50pm and one of them allegedly insulted Mhlanga when ordering him to board the police vehicle. He said he removed the handcuffs before Mhlanga was driven away.
Later that night, at 10pm, the police returned and arrested him, Lungelo, Simanga and Sandile, said Sifiso. He further told the court that the police allegedly informed them that Mhlanga had died.
Sifiso said he asked the police what had caused Mhlanga’s death and the police allegedly told him that he died because they (community police) had assaulted him.


Bleeding


During cross-examination by Thomo, the lawyer informed him that a police officer, Musawenkhosi Dlamini, had told the court that at Maliyaduma, they (police) found a group of men standing next to Mhlanga, who was lying on the ground bleeding from the head and body and he was unable to speak.


Sifiso denied that the community police members assaulted Mhlanga on the head. He admitted that there was a group of men but denied that Mhlanga was bleeding.
Thomo asked if Mhlanga was assisted in any way to board the police van and Sifiso alleged that he was only insulted by the police and hurriedly boarded the car on his own.


Condition


The attorney further informed Sifiso that Musawenkhosi told the court that due to the condition Mhlanga was in when they found him surrounded by a mob at Maliyaduma, they did not take him to the police station but rushed him to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital.


However, Sifiso told the court that when he and the others were taken to the police station after the police told them that Mhlanga had died, he allegedly saw the clothes that Mhlanga was wearing when the members of the community police apprehended him. He alleged that the clothes were placed under a table in the office they were first ushered into.


Sifiso submitted that Mhlanga was dressed in a red T-shirt, a pair of jeans and white sneakers. He alleged that Mhlanga’s sneakers and the T-shirt, which were under the table at the police station, were drenched in blood.
“When he was taken from Maliyaduma his clothes did not have any bloodstains,” Sifisi alleged. Thomo reminded Sifiso that Musawenkhosi told the court that Mhlanga was never taken to the police station but straight to the hospital.
Sifiso said if that was the case then what were his clothes doing at the police station and how did they get there?


He was also asked if he knew Mduduzi Fakudze, and he said he did, adding that he was also a resident of Maliyaduma and his neighbour.
Sifiso said he found Mduduzi in the cell and he asked what he was doing there. He submitted that he informed Mduduzi that they had been arrested following the death of Mhlanga.


Screaming


Mduduzi, according to Sifiso, told them that he had heard Mhlanga screaming in the interrogation room and later went silent.
About four hours later, Sipho said community police were then arrested and charged with the murder of Mhlanga.


During re-examination by Crown Counsel Lukhele, Sifiso said he never confronted the police about the information relayed to him by Mduduzi after he was released.
Lukhele wondered why he did not because that information could have helped absolve the community police from any wrongdoing.


Sifiso said he only asked about Mhlanga’s clothes and the police allegedly told him that they were the evidence of his death. The trial will continue next year.

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