JOHANNESBURG. The noose is tightening around the police officers and soldiers who were at the scene when Alexandra residents Collins Khosa and his family were beaten up on Good Friday.
Khosa succumbed to his injuries and died in the arms of his wife.
Now the police are trying to retrieve deleted cellphone footage that was taken by residents of the SANDF members and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) who were involved in the incident which happened in Alexandra township, Joburg, on April 10.
Police are expected to appeal to cellphone network providers to help them retrieve deleted footage that will show the soldiers’ brutal assault on Khosa before he died.
A number of witnesses have come forward claiming that they had initially recorded Khosa’s assault but were forced to delete the footage by soldiers and members of the JMPD who were present at the scene.
A police investigation has implicated 13 officers in the matter.
“We can confirm that there were seven soldiers and six members of the Joburg Metro at the scene of the crime, some of them might be charged with murder and others (with) defeating the ends of justice,” said a senior police officer with intimate knowledge of the case, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The officer confirmed that police have witnesses who are willing to positively identify some of the culprits and said they have so far, managed to identify half of the soldiers and police who were at the scene.
“We are going to ask the cellphone companies to help us in retrieving the deleted footage from some of the witnesses’ phones,” he added.
Khosa was at home when he and two others were accused of violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations by members of the SANDF. The soldiers had found a camp chair and a glass half full of alcohol in his yard.
He was taken outside the yard where it is said he was kicked, punched, slammed against a wall and had the same beer poured over him. He died later from the injuries sustained during the beat down.
The judge said in terms of section 200 of the Constitution, the defence force must be structured and managed as a disciplined military force and that its primary objective is to defend and protect the Republic and its people.
He also ordered that a code of conduct and operational procedures regulating police and soldiers’ conduct in enforcing the state of disaster be developed and published.
Judge Fabricius added that even in the current state of disaster, police and the army are not above the law and must remain bound by the Constitution and respect the Bill of Rights which is “the cornerstone of this country and it enshrines the rights of all people and affirms its democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom which must be respected, protected and fulfilled by the State and all organs of the State”.
Judge Fabricius further stated that the public must be able to trust the government to abide by the rule of law and to make rational regulations to promote their purpose.
“Public administration, which includes all organs of state, must be accountable and transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible, accountable and accurate information,” Judge Fabricius said.
The family lawyer, Wikus Steyl from Ian Levitt Attorneys, yesterday said this was “a bittersweet victory” for the family.
“The family welcomes the ruling of today but it is a bittersweet victory, it will not bring Collins Khosa back. We are relieved the court has ruled the security cluster cannot take away our constitutional rights regardless of the lockdown or state of disaster and the persons involved in the killing will now be suspended,” he said.
“The family is going to sue the State and we would be sending summons in a month’s time.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the ruling as it sends “a strong message to law enforcement officials that they are not above the law and that the South African public has the right to be treated with dignity”.
The DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans, Kobus Marais, said: “Since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, we have witnessed and heard harrowing accounts of law enforcement officials flouting their mandates to humiliate, degrade and harm the public.”
He said those who do not comply with lockdown regulations “should be held accountable within the bounds of the law, the senseless torture and killing of civilians are indefensible”.
He said the DA has lodged a complaint with the Military Ombudsman, General (Ret) Vusi Masondo, to request an independent investigation into the killing of Khosa.
“We trust that the investigation will be conducted openly and transparently and that all those involved will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Meanwhile, Khosa’s estranged wife, Glacia Ngobeni, who is the mother of his two children, will also join the lawsuit against the State.
Khosa and Ngobeni who have been married for 16 years separated in December 2018 but never divorced. Steyl confirmed he met with Ngobeni and her family on Monday and he is going to represent her too.
Ngobeni was Khosa’s estranged wife while Nomsa Montsha, who has been with the deceased since last year, is the life partner.
“I’m acting for all the children and their mothers,” Steyl said.
This includes the mother of Khosa’s firstborn as Montsha and the deceased didn’t have children but she would be suing the State as his life partner who lost income and her lover after the soldiers’ brutality led to his death.