/ 26 September 2009

Petros’s blind eye

Cape Town members of the elite Hawks unit have been implicated in allegations of torture again. And Mzwandile Petros, the Western Cape police commissioner, is accused within the police of dragging his feet about suspending the officers.

Fourteen Hawks were implicated earlier this year in 18 cases involving murder and torture and the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) recommended in February that they be suspended pending investigation.

Now some of the 14 are being investigated for the alleged torture two weeks ago of a school administration clerk.

Petros told the Mail & Guardian this week he could not act until the investigations were complete.

”We have still not been told that the investigations have been completed,” he said. ”People generally investigate, they complete the investigation, then they make a recommendation for suspension. I don’t know what is in those investigations.”

David Ndzumeka (37) laid a charge at the Bellville police station after he was picked up for questioning and allegedly tortured for several hours by police who were investigating the murder last month of Nomzoxolo Dziba, the acting principal of Sithembele Matiso High School in New Crossroads.

Asked whether the communication between the ICD and the police had broken down, Petros said this was not the case. But since he was the one who would decide whether or not to suspend the police officers, he would wait to be provided with the results of the investigations.

”When I am given the information, I will apply my mind,” he said.

Petros told the M&G he did not know about any new ICD cases involving the same Hawks officers. But the ICD launched another investigation into the same group after Ndzumeka told police he was abducted from his home and tortured at the Bellville South-based organised crime unit, which now falls under the Hawks.

The police officers had placed a black plastic bag over his head and repeatedly suffocated him, only removing it when he passed out, he claimed.

The police officers were trying to get him to reveal the names of the people who killed Dziba, said Ndzumeka, but he did not know who had shot the acting principal in the head in her office at school.

Ndzumeka, the secretary of the school’s finance committee, has since moved out of his home in Philippi as he and his family fear for their safety. He has not resumed working at the school and his cellphone is no longer active.

The acting principal of Sithembele Matiso, Jerry Mofoka, said he had not seen Ndzumeka since September 11, when he came to tell him he had been assaulted, allegedly by the police. Medical certificates from two different doctors were sent to the school, booking him off sick. The last one sent to Mofoka said Ndzumeka was suffering from ”multiple assault injuries”.

”I am concerned about him,” said Mofoka. ”He came to school limping and showed me some sores and marks on his body. He told me what had happened to him and I told him to go to see a doctor.”

ICD spokesperson Grace Langa said a prima facie case had been established against the 14 police officers for the murder of New Crossroads resident Gladwell Mkwambi, who was allegedly kidnapped with a witness, Siyabulela Njova, on February 9 and allegedly assaulted and tortured at the offices of the organised crime unit.

The directorate has finalised a further 17 cases involving some of the same police officers and these are being considered by the National Prosecuting Authority. The cases involve murder, assault, torture and kidnapping.