Three years after the death of 24-year-old New Crossroads resident Sidwell Mkwambi, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has charged 12 Hawks members in the Western Cape with assault, torture and murder.
The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) recommended that 14 Hawks members be charged, including top police investigator Piet Viljoen. He has not been charged yet.
McIntosh Polela, spokesperson for the Hawks, refused to comment.
At the time of Mkwambi’s death, Viljoen headed the Bellville South organised crime unit where the police officers worked before they moved to the elite Hawks unit. In March last year he also headed a Hawks special task team, taken from Cape Town to Gauteng by Hawks head Anwar Dramat, to investigate murder charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
The 12 Hawks members are also accused of assaulting and torturing Mkwambi’s friend, Siyabulela Njova, who claimed in a statement to the police that he had seen unit members dragging a ‘limp” Mkwambi down a passage at their offices.
Death by torture
In 2009 Mkwambi died after allegedly being brutally tortured. His body was driven to a mortuary in a police van. The police have been accused of trying to cover up his alleged murder by claiming he had jumped from a moving vehicle.
His sister, Mildred Nopinki, said this week she was suing the police for his death.
‘We have been told absolutely nothing by police.”
Nopinki said her brother’s ordeal began after two policemen from the organised crime unit were shot and injured in front of the family home. The police had come looking for Mkwambi and smashed down the doors of their home, she said. Mkwambi and Njova were picked up later by the police for questioning.
The NPA had not commented at the time of going to press.
Hawks’s torture cases increasing
Although the ICD sees the charging of the Hawks as a breakthrough, the number of cases of alleged torture by Hawks members in the Western Cape has risen to 33. Five of the Hawks members implicated by the ICD are linked to most of these, according to a source, but the police have not suspended them, as recommended by the ICD, until a decision has been made in all the cases.
‘We are pleased that action has now been taken on this case, which has dragged on for an extremely long time,” said ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini. ‘We hope that the victims will finally get justice and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.
‘We also hope the NPA will prosecute this matter with vigour, which was not apparent in the way it was handled so far.”