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Mapisa-Nqakula ‘regrets confusion’ after contradictory statements on Khosa case

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was “not correct” when she told Parliament that an internal defence force investigation into the death of Collins Khosa was ongoing, said a media statement on Friday.

“The minister regrets any confusion that may have been caused,” the statement read. 

However, the minister has asked the Military Ombud to conduct further investigations. There was also still a police investigation ongoing. “For these reasons, there is not yet a final word on the Khosa incident and any culpability that might be established for his death,” said the statement.

Khosa died after an altercation with members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD). In court papers, his family said he was brutally assaulted by the soldiers and police officers and his death was the result. The assault included his being strangled, slammed against a cement wall and a steel gate and hit with the butt of the machine gun, they said. 

Pretoria high court Judge Hans Fabricius gave a number of orders, including one that Mapisa-Nqakula and Police Minister Bheki Cele must “ensure that internal investigations into the incidents listed below [including Khosa’s] are completed and reports are furnished to this court on or before June 4”. 

Last week an affidavit was filed in court by Elvis Hobyana, legal adviser to the SANDF. It attached the “concluded” investigation report from an SANDF board of inquiry, which exonerated the soldiers implicated in Khosa’s death. 

The report made a number of findings, including that Khosa was “conscious and healthy when the security forces left”, without interviewing his family members. The report, which was attached to public court papers, led to an outcry.

But later — at a media briefing and to Parliament — the minister insisted that the investigation into Khosa’s death was not complete and that she had not yet received the report from the board of inquiry.  “As far as I am concerned, there is no report,” News24 reported her as saying to Parliament.

In Friday’s statement, the ministry said: “The board of inquiry was not convened by the minister and does not report to her and thus what was confirmed to the court is that the SANDF completed its internal investigation within the stipulated time frames as per the court’s order.”

The statement followed a letter from Khosa’s attorneys who pointed to the “totally irreconcilable” differences between what was said in court and what was said to Parliament. “It would appear that the minister has told contradictory statements to Parliament versus her own statements under oath,” said Khosa’s attorney Wikus Steyl.

He added that his clients were considering their rights, including a perjury complaint to the police or a complaint to the public protector for a breach of the Executive Ethics Code.  

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

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