Johannesburg – As South Africans acclimatise to life under lockdown, the security forces’ heavy-handedness has come under the spotlight, with many communities decrying how they carry themselves.
A week into the lockdown and already eight men have died allegedly the hands of the police.
The public outcry followed the killing of a Vosloorus man by a member of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department and a private security guard.
Sibusiso Amos, who had recently been released from prison after serving a 15-year sentence, was gunned down last week Sunday in front of his two nieces after he was allegedly contravening the lockdown regulations by “drinking alcohol and being at a tavern”. Locals, however, denied the notion.
The owner of the tavern where the incident started, Sylvia Binca, told the Sunday Independent she had stopped selling liquor the day the lockdown started and that no one was drinking before the EMPD officers stormed into her house.
“I do drink and sell alcohol, but I respect the law. The EMPD pushed my door without knocking, they pointed guns everywhere, even at kids,” Binca said.
She said her niece came running towards them as they were sitting outside to say the police were headed in their direction.
“We then moved inside the house where they pushed the door. They were disappointed to learn that there was no alcohol in the house. The late Amos and other three guys were then taken outside and beaten by sjambok before they all ran to their homes,” she said.
The police, however, continued to chase them up until their homes and “shot them inside their yards”.
“I went outside and I saw Amos lying there, helpless. The EMPD did not bother to even call an ambulance. They left and it became difficult because they were wearing balaclavas like criminals,” Binca added.
Another witness, Dudizile Binca, said the police entered the house and started hitting people with sjamboks without asking questions.
“The other guy was from work, and he had a permit with him, but they continued beating him. We have kids who were pointed with guns by these police officers and the kids could not sleep after the incident. I had to get them tablets so that they could sleep. Everyone is traumatised,” she said.
Amos is one of at least eight people killed since the lockdown on March 26 due to the heavy-handedness of law enforcement officers. Since the lockdown, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) has recorded 38 cases.
According to the Ipid statistics, there have been two deaths in police custody, both of them in Limpopo and six deaths as a result of police action. The deaths occurred in Gauteng (2), KwaZulu-Natal (2) and Western Cape(2).
The stats also indicated that there were 11 cases of discharging an official firearm and 14 cases of torture, assault and corruption. There is also one case of rape by a police official.
Ipid acting spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said they were investigating the Amos killing. Seisa said the EMPD officer was not charged even though he had appeared in court but the security guard was. The court said Ipid had to gather more information and evidence to present before it.
“I do confirm that the court decided to place the matter on the court roll against the security officer and not metro police officials because there are some outstanding investigations that we are expected to go and do before we take the matter back to NPA for consideration.
“It has since been postponed to April 8, 2020, for formal bail application and we will be trying to speed our investigation,” said Seisa.