/ 29 January 1999

Cop witnessed Mbuli beating

Tangeni Amupadhi

A policeman is to testify against three colleagues accused of beating “People’s Poet” Mzwakhe Mbuli last week.

Sergeant Maraka Lesika said he saw three other policemen assault Mbuli, but he refused to give details of what he witnessed.

Mbuli laid charges of assault and crimen injuria at the Lyttelton police station in Pretoria on Thursday, and immediately went for a medical examination. This week the police watchdog, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), interviewed Mbuli and his police witness.

Representative Jabu Dlamini confirmed that the ICD has taken the case, but would divulge no further details.

Mbuli was assaulted by the three officers after he appeared in court last week. Mbuli was asking for a transfer to police cells from the Pretoria local prison so that he could spend more time with his lawyers. He said there were too many fans visiting him and this cut into his time with counsel. The request was refused.

Mbuli said the three officers rammed him against a car and manhandled him while moving him from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. He claims the policemen also called him a poes, bobbejaan and kaffir after he complained that the handcuffs were hurting him.

Police representative Morne van Wyk denied the assault charges, saying the policemen used “minimum force” when the poet refused to be handcuffed.

Mbuli, who was wearing a sling on his left arm when his robbery case resumed this week, has been in prison for 14 months. He was arrested with two friends, Ben Masiso and Happy Shikwambane, on October 26 1997, just moments after a bank was held up in Waverley, Pretoria. Mbuli said they went to Pretoria to meet someone who claimed he had information about an attempt on his life earlier that year.

They were charged with the armed robbery of R15 000 and for illegal possession of a handgun and a hand grenade.

Mbuli has maintained apartheid-era police officers in cahoots with top government officials concocted a set-up so he would stop his own investigation into drug-trafficking transactions between South Africa and Swaziland.

Cracks began to appear in the state’s case this week. Captain Johannes Hanekom admitted in court that an identity parade he organised disregarded the rules: none of the men resembled Mbuli, he was by far the tallest, and only one of six witnesses had pointed the poet out.

Hanekom said alleged cash-in-transit mastermind Collin Chauke was made to stand next to Mbuli. Marble Hall heist suspect Patrick Hlongwane and Bronkhorstspruit heist accused Lucas Yende were also in the line-up. Under cross-examination, Hanekom said he believed the parade was irregular as regulations state that participants should be of a similar height.

About 100 supporters turned up to follow the court proceedings. Although disappointed by the lack of support from the African National Congress, Mbuli has had visits from human rights luminaries such as Helen Suzman.