Eagle eye on Hawks members

As the plug is about to be pulled on South Africa’s arms deal investigation, a whistle-blower is told that his massive corruption case died with the Scorpions, and the Hawks are struggling to fly. Are we entering a graft-busting vacuum?

Fourteen police officers working at the elite Hawks investigating unit in Cape Town have been implicated by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) in the brutal murder of a 24-year-old New Crossroads resident, Sidwell Mkwambi.

The Mail & Guardian has established that the directorate has finalised a further 17 cases against police officers from the Bellville Southbased organised crime unit, which now falls under the Hawks—the successor to the Scorpions.

These cases involve murder, assault, torture and kidnapping.

Some of the accused are the same police implicated in Mkwambi’s death. All the police officers have been given 12-month contracts with the Hawks, during which they will be vetted before being formally appointed.
ICD spokesperson Grace Langa said “a prima facie case” had been established against the 14 officers for the alleged murder of Mkwambi.

“The allegation is that he was kidnapped on February 9 this year with a witness and allegedly assaulted and tortured at the offices of the Western Cape organised crime unit,” said Langa.

Methods of torture investigated by the ICD in the 18 cases included handcuffing suspects’ hands behind their backs before pulling plastic bags over their heads, threatening them with suffocation, pulling inner tubes over their faces and hitting, kicking and slapping them.

The National Prosecuting Authority confirmed this week that it would soon decide whether to charge the 14 policemen with Mkwambi’s murder.

Police allegedly tried to cover up Mkwambi’s death by claiming he had jumped from a moving vehicle. Mildred Nopinki, Mkwambi’s sister, who lived with him in New Crossroads, said police had come looking for her brother after the murder of one of his friends.

Shots were fired at Mkwambi as he was walking to the shops with two friends on January 12. Then, on January 18, two policemen from the organised crime unit were shot and injured in front of the family home. Nopinki said police had then smashed down her doors and come looking for her brother again.

“They even beat up my brother-in-law when he said Sidwell was not at home,” she said.

The provincial organised crime unit at the time fell under the command of crack investigator Piet Viljoen, who has now moved to Pretoria as a Hawks investigator.

Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi has denied claims that Viljoen has been appointed deputy to Hawks head Anwa Dramat.

Nopinki told the M&G Viljoen had visited her home in search of her brother after the shooting of the policemen. “My family all heard him,” alleged Nopinki. “Viljoen told us the police don’t want to arrest Sidwell, they want to kill him.”

She said her brother and a witness, Siyabulela Njova, were later picked up by police. In a statement to police, Njova said he saw Mkwambi being dragged down a passage by unit members at the organised crime unit’s offices. “Mkwambi was limp and didn’t move, they were dragging him,” he said.

Likhaya Makana, an attorney, said Mkwambi’s family would be suing the minister of police, Nathi Mthethwa, for unlawful arrest, as well as loss of support for the family. Makana said he would also act on Njovo’s behalf.

Makana said he had been told that the two men had been interrogated in two separate offices and were tortured and beaten. Njovo has claimed he was beaten with fists, handcuffs, the butt of a gun and a sjambok.

Responding on behalf of Viljoen, Zondi said that he could not preempt a possible court case by commenting.

“Unless this is proved in court, these remain allegations,” he said

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

Client Media Releases

What makes IIE Rosebank College cool?
UKZN supports #CrazySocks4Docs campaign
The right to take refuge
Taking Sanral to Upington