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Khosa family: Crucial witnesses not interviewed by defence force and police unit

In investigating the death of Collins Khosa, the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) board of inquiry did not interview the key witnesses at the scene. Neither did the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) before it closed its investigation and exonerated the police.

This is according to Khosa’s life partner, Nomsa Montsha, in an affidavit filed on Saturday to the high court in Pretoria.

Khosa died after an altercation with members of the SANDF and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) at his home in Alexandra Johannesburg, on Easter Friday. In court papers, Khosa’s family said he was severely assaulted by SANDF and JMPD officers — including being hit with the butt of a machine gun, throttled while his arm was held behind his back and slammed into a steel gate.

When the family urgently went to court seeking orders to put an end to police and army brutality during the National State of Disaster, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that an investigation by the SANDF was almost completed and a report was expected on Friday.

But Montsha, who was present during the altercation and alleges that she was also assaulted, said: “I have never been contacted for an interview by any investigator from the SAPS [South African Police Service], OMO [Office of the Military Ombud] or the SANDF board of inquiry. Neither has Mr Muvhango. Nor have any of the witnesses who deposed to the confirmatory affidavits to the founding affidavit, and who will also confirm the correctness of what I am saying now in this affidavit.”

Thabiso Muvhango, Khosa’s brother-in-law, was also alleged to have been brutally assaulted. The witnesses Montsha refers to have confirmed on oath that they were present and that video recordings they took of the brutality were deleted from their phones.

“The fact that they have never spoken to any of the witnesses or surviving victims means that their investigation can be neither impartial nor effective,” said Montsha.

Khosa’s family wants the court to order a special reporting and investigation mechanism for allegations of police brutality during the lockdown. But national police commissioner Khehla Sitole has insisted that the processes in place were sufficient. Mapisa-Nqakula said Khosa’s family had not shown that the current processes had not done their job.

The IPID investigation had been completed, the court papers stated. The JMPD officers had been cleared, with a conclusion that though they were present during the incident they did not participate in it.

Yet, said Montsha, the IPID had also not contacted her, Muvhango or the other witnesses for their account of what happened.   

Montsha also said the convening order for the SANDF’s board of inquiry framed the investigation wrongly, saying Khosa and Muvhango had “refused to comply with the lockdown regulations as they were directed by the soldiers at the time, and continued to drink alcohol outside the yard”. Yet, according to Montsha and Muvhango, they were inside the yard — as permitted by law.

The convening order “paints and pre-judges Mr Khosa and Mr Muvhango as ‘non-compliers’”, she said.

When her lawyers asked for the report, it was not provided. Instead, the state attorney did not confirm that the report had in fact been produced, adding that in any event it still needed to go through an “internal process”.

The case is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday.

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Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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