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Khosa family demands an end to abuse of power

The family of Collin Khosa — allegedly killed by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Alexandra — have sent a letter of demand to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking him to explain what steps will be taken to ensure there is no abuse of power during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Khosa — a father of three — died on Friday April 10. A “preliminary medical opinion is that the cause of death is directly related to the assault by the members of the SANDF”, said the letter of demand. A charge of murder has been laid. His family have now also demanded financial compensation for the loss of support. 

In the letter, attorney Wikus Steyl of Ian Levitt Attorneys detailed the assault — according to people that were there. He said that female SANDF soldiers came into Khosa’s yard with sjamboks and accused him of breaking the lockdown regulations because they noticed an unattended camping chair in the yard and a “half-full cup of alcohol”. 

When Khosa protested that this was lawful, they became agitated, raided his fridge and ordered him outside. They called for backup, said the letter, which included a number of vehicles from the SANDF and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

Three more SANDF soldiers arrived and, without inquiring any further details from Khosa, they “manhandled and assaulted Mr Khosa in the following manner. In particular, they: poured beer on top of his head and on his body; one member of the SANDF held his hand behind his back, while the other choked him; slammed him against the cement wall; hit him with the butt of the machine gun; kicked, slapped him, punched him on his face and on his stomach and ribs; and slammed him against the steel gate”. 

Videos taken by witnesses were deleted by SANDF members, said Steyl. When he was taken to his house, he “later presented with certain signs such as vomiting, losing speech and consciousness and progressively lost his ability to walk”, said the letter. He was declared dead by emergency services, after they arrived. 

The letter is also addressed to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and to the JMPD’s David Tembe. 

Non-derogable constitutional rights 

“In our submission there is no justification of the actions by SANDF and JMPD,” said the letter. The assault was a violation of the constitutional rights to life, dignity and freedom and to be free from all forms of violence, said Steyl. 

“Despite the national lockdown, every South African enjoys these rights. As per the provisions of section 37 of the Constitution, these rights are so fundamental that they may not be derogated from, even during a state of emergency,” said the letter.

The letter from Khosa’s family also demands that the SANDF and JMPD publicly condemn the conduct of their members, and for a report on what steps have been taken to discipline them. They also asked for confirmation that the relevant soldiers and police officers “be immediately removed from the public and be placed on suspension, while an investigation is ongoing”.

“This incident shows that members of the defence force believe that they can act with impunity towards vulnerable and poor South Africans. We ask that you explain what steps will be taken to ensure that there is no abuse of power by the SANDF during the lockdown.” 

Read the full letter here: 

Letter of Demand - Khosa v Minister of Defence and Others by Mail and Guardian on Scribd

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

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