A 40-year-old man was assaulted and killed allegedly by members of the SANDF during a crackdown in Alexandra, north of Joburg, on Friday.
Collins Khoza’s death has brought to nine the number of people killed by the police and soldiers for allegedly violating the national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month.
According to witnesses and Khoza’s family, the deceased died after soldiers assaulted him for drinking alcohol inside a yard with his friend, Thabiso Muvhango.
Accusing the two men of having violated the Covid-19-related national lockdown, the three soldiers allegedly raided Muvhango’s home at Far East Bank after noticing a camp chair and a half-full cup of alcohol in the yard.
“They started slapping us, saying, ‘we are taking you with us’. There were four guys. One was punching him (Khoza) in the ribs, hitting him against the wall,” Muvhango said yesterday.
“Three other soldiers started assaulting the deceased with a sjambok on the head. They kicked the deceased and even broke the door. After that, the deceased vomited two times. He said he needed to rest and that’s when he later passed out.”
He added that Khoza, a bakery employee who hailed from Ga-Modjadji in Limpopo, died in the evening - about three hours after the assault.
“At around 8pm, his wife knocked on my door and said she had been battling to wake up Collins. When we arrived, we found that he was sleeping with his eyes open, but looking on one side.”
Muvhango confirmed that he had laid charges of murder against the soldiers at the Alexandra Police Station.
SANDF spokesperson Colonel Louis Kirstein declined to comment on the matter and said the issue was being handled by police.
“Please speak to the police. A case has been opened and we can’t speak on it,” he said yesterday.
Attempts to get a comment from police spokesperson Kay Makhubele were unsuccessful.
Speaking to Sunday Independent, Muvhango said it all began on Friday afternoon when he, Khoza and their wives were relaxing inside his home. He heard a commotion, with someone shouting that there were soldiers outside.
When he rushed out to see what was happening, two female soldiers entered the yard and enquired about the camp chair and a cup of alcohol.
“She said, ‘we are looking for people like you. Ramaphosa said we must not take alcohol’. Then I questioned her to say, ‘I never heard Ramaphosa say we must not drink alcohol in our yards’. He just said we must stay in our places. We must not move around. She then said, ‘yeah, you have got an attitude now. I am going to search your house and take the alcohol that you have, ” Muvhango said.
Muvhango said the soldiers searched Khoza and then took the two bottles of alcohol with them to the street. “I then said, ‘why are you taking something that you found in the yard and going to the streets? This is to give an impression to the next person that comes that we were in the streets and we were not. That’s when she said, ‘you’ve got an attitude’. They also slapped the deceased’s wife in the face when she tried to intervene.”
He said when Khoza’s wife intervened, the soldiers slapped her in the face and accused her of also having an attitude. They allegedly took the alcohol to the street, ordered the two men to wait outside and called for a backup.
“She said, ‘I want to prove a point to you,” Muvhango said. “The other lady then banged the gate against the deceased’s car. When the deceased complained, she then said, ‘you think you are the only one with a car. We have got cars also. We own them’.”
Muvhango said six cars belonging to the police, SANDF and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) arrived shortly. Without asking questions, three other soldiers joined in and started pouring alcohol all over the men’s bodies. They then allegedly forced two other eyewitnesses who filmed the incident with cellphones to delete the video. Noel Bongelo, 31, a neighbour who also witnessed the incident, said the soldiers chased everybody with a sjambok before repeatedly kicking and punching Khoza. He said from where he was, he could see the soldiers manhandling Khoza.
“I saw another soldier pushing him against the wall with force. Collins’ wife screamed and begged them not to kill him. When we tried to get closer, the soldiers chased us with a sjambok to prevent us from seeing the assault,” Bongelo said yesterday.
“They were beating everyone who was shooting a video. It seems Collins ran to the house and closed the door because they kicked the door open. They also whipped his wife with a sjambok, saying she insulted them.”
Bongelo said the mood of fear and anxiety had gripped Alexandra since the incident.
“It’s very bad. I don’t even feel safe since the incident. We have been inside the yard. For now we don’t know how we are going to live.”
Khoza’s sister in law declined to comment. Sunday Independent reported last week that police brutality was on the rise during the 21-day lockdown, with at least eight men having died allegedly at the hands of the police. The public outcry had followed the killing of a Vosloorus man by a member of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) and a private security guard. Sibusiso Amos was gunned down two weeks ago in front of his two nieces on accusations of contravening the lockdown, a claim denied by the tavern’s owner, Sylvia Binca.
Following Amos’ death, police were also accused of applying the law on the basis of race and class after they failed to act against white residents who appeared on social media videos braaing outside their homes.
Last week, Communications Minister Stella Ndabebi-Abrahams also breached lockdown rules by having lunch at the home of her friend, former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana. This came as Ramaphosa extended the national lockdown by 14 days this week amid an increase in South Africa’s Covid-19 cases to more than 2 000.
At least 24 people died while 410 others recovered from the acute respiratory disease.
While it is too early to make a definitive analysis of the progression of the disease in South Africa, there is sufficient evidence to show that the lockdown is working. Since the lockdown came into effect, the rate at which new cases have been identified here in South Africa has slowed significantly, Ramaphosa said in a televised speech.
Ramaphosa later suspended Ndabeni-Abrahams for two months and docked her a one-month salary to be paid into the Solidarity Fund.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said they would respond once their office in Gauteng confirmed the incident.
Andrew Faull, a senior researcher for safety governance and criminology at the Institute of Security Studies, said the general conduct of law enforcement agencies showed that they hardly understood the limitations of their powers.
“But police should know the limitations of their powers. Perhaps in many parts of the organisation, it is such that the incremental use of force isn’t respected. Instead, the force is abused, and it’s tolerated because people don’t blow the whistle on each other. Supervisors don’t discipline people who abuse force, and that creates a culture in which use of force is normalised,” said Faull.