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THABANI INQUEST: NATCOM ADMITS PROCEDURE FLOUTED

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MATSAPHA - “Akuhambanga kahle (It didn’t go well)”.

These were the words of the National Commissioner (NATCOM) of Police, William Tsitsibala Dlamini, when he admitted that police flouted procedure in handling the matter of the late Thabani Nkomonye. The police chief made this submission before the Coroner, Senior Magistrate Nonhlanhla Dlamini, when he delivered evidence in the ongoing inquest into the death of Nkomonye. The inquest is held at Matsapha Correctional College.

Investigate

The NATCOM was first led by Advocate Mduduzi ‘Tsotsi’ Mabila and he asked him why he did not investigate traffic police officers at Matsapha Police Station, who told the Nkomonye family that the car, a black Mazda Demio, was not at the police station yet it was parked at the backyard of the police establishment. He told the police chief that the Nkomonye family went to the police station on Monday May 10, 2021, but when they returned on Thursday May 13, 2021, they found the car parked at the backyard of the police station.

Advocate Mabila reminded the NATCOM that the police also issued a missing person’s notice and described the car which was being driven by the deceased when he went missing on Saturday May 8, 2021, yet the vehicle was parked at the police station. “Was it not important for you to question the Matsapha police from the Traffic Department on why they allowed the police service to issue the notice when the car was parked at the backyard of their police station, through the instruction they gave the tow truck?” the advocate asked. In response, the NATCOM alleged that they talked to the traffic officers from Matsapha Police Station about it, but they gathered that there was a communication breakdown between those who  said the car should be towed to the police station and the ones who were at the station, in terms of proper handover.

Intention

“They said it was an operational glitch and that there was no intention to hide any information,” the police chief submitted. Lawyer Mangaliso Nkomondze then asked him if this (operational glitch) was what they should expect from the police service. The NATCOM responded to the negative and added that it was why the officers said it was an operational mistake and as a police service, they did not condone it. “Thank you for admitting that before the coroner and the nation at large,” the lawyer submitted.

Thereafter, Nkomondze told the coroner that the feeling of the Nkomonye family was that if this was purely a road traffic accident and the police had reported it on time, maybe they could have found their loved one still alive at the scene, if he was indeed there. Again, the lawyer submitted that if the police had accordingly recorded the matter and kept the records properly when the family members went to enquire about the deceased and car at Manzini and Matsapha police stations, maybe they would have found him still alive.

“That is understandable,” the NATCOM replied. After that, the lawyer asked the NATCOM that in the absence of any other evidence, could they safely conclude that the police were involved in the death of Nkomonye. The police chief responded to the negative. However, he submitted that if the conclusion of the inquest would be to that effect, proper actions would be taken against any officer who would be said to have had a hand in the death of Nkomonye.  

“For now, I do not agree that the police were involved in the death of Nkomonye,” the NATCOM added. Once more, the lawyer emphasised that by May 10, 2021, there were no proper documents about the matter at the police station. In response, the police chief submitted that the officers who were on duty when the accident took place, did not execute their duties properly.

Evidence

On top of that, the lawyer told the NATCOM that evidence that was submitted to the coroner by REPS officers was that they were sent to search for the occupants of the car in the morning of Sunday May 9, 2021, but spent about five minutes at the scene. He added that it was submitted that their search was not a thorough one. The lawyer also submitted that the evidence before the coroner was to the effect that after that day, no other search was conducted by the police, until Thursday May 13, 2021, when the body of Nkomonye was found by his family members. “Akuhambanga kahle nangabe basho njalo (it did not go well if that’s what they said ),” the NATCOM submitted.

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