Johannesburg - A Joburg man who was trying to capture cellphone images of a friend allegedly being assaulted by the police ended up dead moments later – allegedly at the hands of officers.
According to the friend’s daughter, Lumkiswa Mangxama – who witnessed the incident – Richard Chirwa was choked by a police officer who had arrested him for drinking and driving.
The friend, Thulani Ntuli, was travelling with Mangxama and his son Jabulani when they were stopped by police in Brackenhurst, Ekurhuleni, last Saturday afternoon.
On Thursday, Mangxama said that police saw two bottles of beer in the car and arrested Chirwa and her father on the scene.
“They asked us if we were drunk, but no one responded. I think that got them angry,” said Mangxama, adding that the police assaulted her father before shoving him into the back of their van.
The 29-year-old woman said she and her brother were then asked to join her father in the van.
Chirwa was driven by a policeman in his car to the Brackenhurst police station.
“When we got to the police station, my brother and I were taken to different entrances to the station. We then met my father’s friend (Chirwa) a few minutes later (inside the police station).
“My dad was lying on the floor in front of other police officers. He was bleeding on his face and not moving at the time,” Mangxama said.
She said Chirwa’s crime was to capture pictures of her father, who was bleeding from being hit with a firearm.
They asked Chirwa to stop taking the pictures and they took his cellphone.
Chirwa was then told by a police officer that they were going to draw his blood to check for alcohol, but he refused, saying he would only do so if they returned his cellphone.
“The arresting officer pepper-sprayed my father’s friend in the face and then throttled him until he collapsed.
“They tried to resuscitate him, but he looked like he was already dead,” Mangxama said.
On Thursday night, Chirwa’s family said they wanted answers and that the officers should be arrested.
“We are suspicious because police are telling us a different story from the eyewitnesses,” said Chirwa’s stepdaughter, Veliswa Mazibuko.
The police couldn’t say how Chirwa had died, she added.
“The death certificate states that his cause of death is still being investigated. However, a police officer from the station told us that the cause was natural death,” Mazibuko said.
“They told us my father collapsed when a standby nurse tried to draw his blood. They told us that he was being arrested for drinking and driving.
“We seriously don’t know who to trust because the police are lying to us. Everything they say doesn’t make sense at all,” she said.
Mazibuko claimed that the nurse failed to answer them when asked why she did not ask her father about his medical condition. She said Chirwa was diabetic, but the police said he was suffering from high-blood pressure.
The family had asked for a meeting with the Brackenhurst police to explain the incident. But they said they were turned down by the station commander.
“All we wanted was to meet with the arresting officers to explain, but she refused,” Mazibuko said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini referred The Star to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), who were investigating the matter.
However, Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini’s phone went unanswered and he did not respond to SMSes sent.