Dad seeks justice for son killed in 1996

Arthur Thusi was thrown to his death from a 12-storey building. (Supplied)

Arthur Thusi was thrown to his death from a 12-storey building. (Supplied)

Arthur Thusi, a final year law student at the then-University of Durban-Westville (UDW), died after being thrown off a 12-storey building in Durban in 1996.

The softly spoken Thusi (67), who used to work as a personal banker, said the police had never managed to find those responsible for his son's death. He has a thick file containing correspondence between himself, police and government officials.

"There is this thing inside me that I can't get rid of," he said. "I can't seem to find peace. Is there justice for the poor? Is it fair that I have to spend 17 years of my life without knowing who killed my son? What must I do to find closure? What?"

Thusi put this reporter in touch with his son's roommate at the time, Kaizer Khoza, who is now an attorney and Free State chairperson of the Black Management Forum. Speaking from his office in Bloemfontein Khoza described Arthur as a neat-dressing, self-disciplined person with a sharp mind.

"We would argue about politics - I was from a Black Consciousness background and he was fond of the ANC and pan-Africanism. Back then UDW was a beehive of politics, entertainment and community programmes.

"Both of us had to juggle all these as well as our academic work. In 1996, we were doing very few courses so we decided to stay in a leafy area in South Beach at a block of flats called Falaise. At that time, we were the only black tenants in the building and we were living our lives as final-year B Juris students."

He said he and Arthur shared their "beautiful" flat, about 100m from the beach, with two other students.

'Would have made a great prosecutor'
"I remember that Arthur had said he was not coming back next year and was going to work. On the other hand, I was preparing for my LLB postgraduate [degree] the following year. Arthur had an interest in being a prosecutor. I strongly believe he would have made a great prosecutor today and strengthened our ailing justice system," Khoza said.

He remembered that, on the day of his death, Arthur had been looking forward to attending a party at another beachfront flat, a university residence. Although Khoza, a part-time DJ, did not attend the party, he said Arthur and a friend had wanted to borrow some of his mix tapes but he had refused.

Khoza said he was woken up at about 3am the next morning by friends saying "Bakhawuthe uArthur" (They have harmed Arthur).

"I dismissed them as drunk," he said.

Although it is not clear exactly what happened on the night of Arthur's death, it appeared that he propositioned a fellow student, who then told her boyfriend about it. Shots were fired, causing a stampede. Arthur's body was found the next morning at the bottom of the building.

Morake Mokgosi, now a businessman in Johannesburg, said he had been with Arthur on the night of his death and went with the police to the mortuary to identify his body.

"Our justice sucks," said Mokgosi. "If you do not have money or you are not a famous person or even a politician then you are doomed. Our justice system is for the rich. Just because Arthur's father is not moneyed, he can't find justice."

Postmortem report
The case seemingly went nowhere for nine years and, in 2005, Thusi said he wrote to the then Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). In January 2006, the ICD wrote back to him, saying the matter had been referred to the department of community safety and liaison. The case was then apparently transferred to the office of the provincial police commissioner. Thusi then wrote to the then-minister of police, Charles Nqakula, who promised to investigate.

Nqakula wrote back to Thusi, telling him the docket could not be traced and a "Captain Masuku" had been assigned to make a duplicate and another office had been tasked with searching for the postmortem report.

Nqakula sent him another letter on April 23 2008, saying that all postmortem records before the year 2000 had been destroyed at the Gale Street mortuary in Durban.

"Then I received a letter in October 2008 saying that the postmortem report had been traced and filed in the docket."

Thusi said the current police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, wrote to him on December 28 last year saying the case had been referred to the senior ­public prosecutor, who declined to prosecute because there was not enough evidence linking the suspects to the crime.

KwaZulu-Natal police provincial spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said this week investigations had confirmed that Arthur had attended a party at the beachfront at which shots had been fired and that he had apparently been thrown from the building.

Good progress
"We investigated the matter extensively but Mr Thusi was not happy with the way that we were going about the investigation and it [the case] was transferred from Durban Central investigations department to provincial headquarters, where it was taken up by Captain Chetty.

"Still Mr Thusi was apparently not happy with Chetty's investigation and it was brought back to the Durban Central for further investigation. The team is, therefore, still investigating. We are in constant contact with Mr Thusi and update him regularly on the case," Mdunge said.

Although prosecutors had declined to prosecute the case, "we decided to continue the investigation ... We have already got sworn statements from some witnesses. We are making good progress," he said.

Thusi said he would not give up. But he wondered what his son would have made with his life.

"Maybe he would be an attorney, maybe he would have given me grandchildren by now."

Manqoba Nxumalo

Manqoba Nxumalo

Manqoba Nxumalo is the Mail & Guardian's Eugene Saldanha Fellow for social justice reporting in 2013. Nxumalo started his journalism career at the Swazi Observer, a government-controlled Mbabane-based newspaper, in 2004. The following year he moved to the kingdom's only independent newspaper, Times of Swaziland, where he reported on diverse issues for six years. During this time Manqoba completed a diploma in law at the University of Swaziland while doing court reporting for the newspaper. This experience drove his passion to use journalism as a tool to change the injustices of the world and give a voice to those without one. His work put him at odds with authorities in Swaziland, and in 2011 Manqoba moved to South Africa to continue telling his stories. He has written for a range of local and international publications. Read more from Manqoba Nxumalo


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