Fingers point at cops after suspect slain

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Copy of IOL police badge generic Independent Newspapers File picture: Skyler Reid

Johannesburg - The family of a man from Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, who died after police took him in for interrogation in connection with rhino poaching, are demanding answers.

Velaphi Tibane died on January 16 after he was allegedly assaulted and shot dead by police.

His cousin, Veli Ubombo, said Tibane’s body was found at a mortuary on the morning following his interrogation.

“They took him from the police station and went to the nearest bush. That’s very strange. I have never heard of suspects being taken to the bush for questioning,” he said.

Ubombo said Tibane’s family was shocked when it discovered his bruised, battered body at a local mortuary.

“His face was badly bruised. It was a horrible sight. He had a gunshot wound in the head and his arm was broken,” Ubombo said.

He said police officers took Tibane to Hluvukani police station for questioning at about 3pm. That was the last time he was seen alive.

Ubombo said they had received a call from police the following morning, informing them that his cousin was dead.

“His death came as a shock to all of us because he was okay the previous day. We want to know how he died. It’s okay for police to question a suspect, but they don’t have to kill them.”

The family have opened a case against the SAPS.

Ubombo said the police were blaming a game ranger for Tibane’s death.

He noted that the ranger was with the police when they took Tibane in for questioning.

“How did the game ranger kill a suspect in front of the police? I don’t buy that. Witnesses are telling us that police assaulted him.

“I’m not saying the game ranger was not involved, because the registration of his car was also found at the scene,” he said.

Ubombo said that when Tibane’s family went to the bush where he was allegedly killed, they found bloodstains.

The game ranger was arrested in connection with the murder.

An investigating officer, who did not want to be identified, said:

“We want all the people who are responsible for Veli’s death to be arrested. We are not going to rest until they have been arrested.”

Tibane’s friend, Rodney Sibuyi, was also allegedly assaulted by police on the same day.

“They found me at a tavern and told me they were looking for a gun. They kicked me and hit me with a gun.

“They said I’m a rhino poacher. I told them I don’t know anything about that and I don’t have a gun,” Sibuyi said.

Sibuyi has opened a case of assault.

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