‘Police attached wires to my penis’
Bloemfontein - Four Grootvlei awaiting-trial prison inmates and two of their co-accused released on bail last month are suing Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for damages relating to brutal apartheid-era interrogation and torture tactics allegedly employed by Bloemfontein’s Organised Crime Unit (OCU).
Charges include being hung upside down in broad daylight from a first-floor balcony of the Bloemfontein Tourist Centre (BTC), electric shock torture, suffocation with pepper-spray filled plastic bags, head-bashing, assaults and beatings.
The Wits Justice Project (WJP) is in possession of medical reports documenting injuries caused by torture and other evidence corroborating William Dube, Lucky Mametsa, Mzwandile Khani, David Seleke, Davies Musimeke and Sifiso Cele’s allegations. The alleged torture took place after the men’s arrest on armed robbery and burglary charges in May 2010.
Dube described being cuffed to a chair in an unmarked suite of the tourism centre offices, wires attached to his penis, and shocked.
“It was very, very painful. I even wet myself... They covered my head with a plastic bag, filled it with pepper spray and sealed it with duct tape.”
Dube said he agreed to a confession while held by two organised crime unit members by the ankles in broad daylight over a balcony.
Khani said he was assaulted and beaten at his home by OCU members when arrested. Two weeks later he was taken to the centre for a second round and shocked repeatedly for almost four hours in front of a woman officer.
“There were nine or 10 policemen watching, and kicking me. One of them opened my legs and kicked me in my private parts. I was screaming so loudly, they forced a dirty cloth in my mouth.”
Khani’s Grootvlei hospital records confirm “a clot-like substance in the penile shaft as a result of being assaulted by police officers”.
OCU’s attempts to elicit a confession from Mametsa allegedly included repeated head-bashing.
After three days in Grootvlei hospital, he said “I was sneezing blood with green stuff with rotten things in it. Pieces of bone... were coming out of my nose”.
After being told by Grootvlei’s doctor there was nothing wrong with him, dentist Dr Tapan Sewbarun diagnosed a broken zygomatic bone and head fracture. He referred Mametsa to Pelonomi Hospital where, Mametsa said, a scan and X-ray showed a head fracture. After these records disappeared, Mametsa was again told there was nothing wrong with him.
Dube, Khani and Mametsa laid charges against the OCU and Warrant Officer Jan Basson at Bloemspruit Police Station in May 2010. The case was transferred to Kagisanong but there have been no further developments.
Seleke said he was shocked with “something like a cow-prod that the boere use for animals” when arrested at his house. Though cameras recorded the assaults, he said the monitor and footage were confiscated by police.
After laying assault charges against Basson at Park Road Police Station, Seleke lodged a complaint with the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), now Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
He was told his statement had disappeared; only an empty police docket remained.
Months later, Seleke was assaulted by Basson in Grootvlei’s reception area in front of his co-accused and DCS officials. A probe was done but the outcome is unknown.
Musimeke and Cele said they suffered similarly at the centre.
Mthethwa’s spokesperson Zweli Mnisi referred the WJP to Free Sate Provincial Head: Corporate Communication Brigadier Billy Jones for comment. “We are aware that such allegations are being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. Their office is the mandated entity that would be in a position to provide you with comment on their investigations. I cannot comment as the investigations are independent from the SAPS.
“This office can only confirm that the mentioned accused who are making these allegations are currently facing serious charges, namely two of armed robbery and one of burglary at business premises. The accused were arrested in the act at the business premise where the burglary took place. The trial involving these accused are (sic) continuing in court on Monday.”
The crimes are alleged to have taken place between April and May 2010.
* Carolyn Raphaely is a member of the Wits Justice Project that investigates miscarriages of justice, located in Wits’ journalism department. The WJP is in possession of the names of other members of the Organised Crime Unit implicated in these allegations. - The Star