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KwaZulu-Natal has earned the dubious distinction of having the most people killed at the hands of the police, with “shocking” details revealed by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) of alleged torture and murders.
The directorate’s national head, Francois Beukman, who visited some of the families of the alleged victims in Durban on Wednesday, spoke of how a Lindelani father of 10 was allegedly tortured and suffocated to death with a latex glove during interrogation at the KwaMashu police station in February. He also said a 14-year-old Umlazi girl was allegedly raped and impregnated by her policeman father – who allegedly shot her dead when she was seven months pregnant.
Beukman said “KZN ranks the highest” in terms of police brutality and deaths in custody, when compared to other populous provinces – Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
“But, we are strengthening our resources in KZN and have no doubt our investigations will yield positive results and be a deterrent for others,” he said.
Last month, 18 members of the now closed Durban Organised Crime Unit in Cato Manor were charged on 71 counts of murder, attempted murder, theft and possession of unlicensed firearms.
Beukman described the Cato Manor investigation as the biggest in the history of the organisation, and confirmed that more arrests and charges were imminent, possibly even before the 18 suspects appear in court again on August 24.
He told the Daily News that many more witnesses had come forward since the suspects had been arrested.
“We are busy investigating and following new leads. Once there is sufficient evidence in hand, action will be taken,” he said.
“We have a highly skilled task team in place, numbering more than 10, and are confident of their ability. They have been working around the clock to ensure that where people were killed unjustly, the perpetrators are brought to book.”
He said the task team was also focused on other cases that didn’t necessarily involve the Cato Manor members.
Accompanied by KZN Ipid boss Baatseba Mothale and national acting chief director for investigations, Matthews Sesoko, Beukman visited two families whose loved ones were killed, allegedly by policemen.
Taxi owner Mduduzi Ngcobo, a father of 10, was reportedly tortured and killed in February this year. A latex glove was allegedly used to suffocate him.
His sister, Cheryl, said Ngcobo was arrested after he was accused of buying a taxi that had been hijacked.
“The police came to our home and said they wanted to talk to him at the police station. A few hours later we heard that he was dead.
“He was the breadwinner,” she said. “We want this case finalised so we can get closure. Hopefully, the state will also assist us financially.”
Three policemen – Warrant Officer Nkosinathi Ngubane and Sergeant Nhlanhla Hlengwa of the Durban Flying Squad, and Warrant Officer Senzo Khuzwayo of the Greenwood Park police task team – have been charged with Ngcobo’s murder.
They appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court last month and were released on R3 000 bail each. Their case was adjourned to today for a Durban High Court date.
The policeman who allegedly raped and killed his daughter is a warrant officer based at the Reunion police station in Isipingo.
He appeared in the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court last month and was denied bail. He is expected to appear in court on July 27.
“We want to reassure these families that the suspects will have to account for their alleged criminal actions,” Beukman said, adding that the directorate had “strong evidence” against them.
“These incidents of (alleged) torture and murder are shocking. Lives must be protected, not taken. We need a police service that can be trusted by the community,” he said.
“Fortunately, with the new Ipid Act, we have more power and authority to ensure co-operation from police. We are determined to clean up.”