Johannesburg - Ten police officers from the Tactical Response Team (TRT) in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, have been charged with the torture and murder of a civilian – in yet another case of police brutality.
The officers, commonly known as amaberethe, were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning in connection with the murder of Khuthazile Mbendu, 37, from Tembisa.
They appeared in the Tembisa Magistrate’s Court, where they were charged with his murder.
It is alleged that the 10 cops had arrested Mbendu for theft in Ivory Park on the evening of December 8, last year, Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokeswoman Grace Langa said.
While the TRT officers were transporting Mbendu to the police station, Langa said, they allegedly tortured him, which ultimately led to his death.
“It is believed that they broke his leg, choked him and continuously beat him,” she told The Star on Thursday. “He sustained fatal injuries and later died in hospital.”
Langa’s account of the events leading to Mbendu’s murder was chillingly similar to the killing of Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia.
News of Mbendu’s killing came three days after eight SAPS officers were convicted of the gruesome murder of Macia, who was handcuffed to a police van and dragged through a Daveyton street in February 2013. He was later found dead in Daveyton police station’s holding cells.
The news surfaced in the wake of another case of police brutality by Douglasdale officers. They were captured on video physically and sexually abusing a man while his friend was forced to watch. The two officers have since been identified and placed on leave pending a decision on their suspension.
On Thursday, the atmosphere in the Tembisa court was tense as the families of the accused arrived to find out what was amiss.
As the accused officers were escorted into the courtroom, they covered their faces with jackets and hoods in an attempt to hide their identities.
Magistrate Vinny Gobind read the charges to them and warned them that they were obliged to tell the court of any previous convictions, or else they would be heavily fined.
Among the suspects was Koena Mokobodi, who is accused No 2 in the case. He was the only one in the group who chose to obtain his own legal representation.
The defence requested that if the men were to remain in custody, they be held at Tembisa police station until their next court appearance.
Gobind agreed to this and postponed the case to Tuesday for a bail hearing.
Apart from Mokobodi, the rest of the suspects charged for Mbendu’s murder are Kaya Manyamalala, Makgoba Kekana, Tshegofatso Mofome, Tebatso Raolane, Mathotho Hopane, Isaac Kgabo, Joseph Chauke, Manako Dyrose and Johannes Lesetja.
Meanwhile, Ipid officials visited Edenvale police station on Thursday night to address incidents of alleged police brutality by officers in the area.
Last month, the investigative journalism TV programme Carte Blanche had exposed police brutality in the area.
Police officers allegedly beat, abused and arrested motorists.
One of the officers has been identified as “the man with the gold tooth” and has since been suspended.