All we want is justice, says Soweto family accusing cops of assault during early days of lockdown
By Nhlanhla Mbatha
Johannesburg - All that the Buthelezi family in Dlamini, Soweto, wants is justice.
Nearly a year ago law enforcement officers stormed the family home – alleging the family were having a party and drinking alcohol during lockdown regulations – and started assaulting everyone. That is according to 40-year-old Sakhile Buthelezi, an officer with the SAPS VIP protection services unit.
Buthelezi claimed their assailants were uniformed members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the SAPS.
Attempts to open a case of assault and theft at the local Moroka police station were not successful.
“We were threatened with counter-charges of hosting a party and drinking alcohol. We asked them for proof, and that fell on deaf ears,” Buthelezi said.
The family ended up contacting the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Speaking on behalf of the police watchdog on Friday, Ndileka Cola said: “Ipid was still investigating the matter and the family was kept abreast of the status.”
Said Buthelezi: “This week will be a year since we were assaulted, and a year since we opened a case with the police against our attackers. Nothing has happened to our case so far. No one has been arrested. No one has been held accountable. When we make enquiries, we are told that the SANDF is not co-operating.
“All we want is justice. I remember vividly, it was on a Sunday, March 29, 2020, in the afternoon. It was exactly three days after the start of the national lockdown alert level 5 announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“In the house were myself and my girlfriend, Siphelele Mngqibisa, my brother Simangaliso and his then three-month pregnant girlfriend Nokuthula Zungu and my 12-year-old daughter Silindile.
“We were suddenly surprised by police jumping our fence and surrounding our house before kicking the doors and banging the windows. As a police officer, I rushed to the door to find out what was going on but officers were already inside claiming that we were having a party and drinking alcohol during lockdown.
“Before I could respond, they started beating me, kicking me and dragging me outside the house. While outside the house, the beating continued, with everyone laying a hand and a boot on me. Everyone attacked me, soldiers, traffic officers and police just had a field day on me,” he said, claiming that some of his assailants had no masks and gloves on, exposing him to the coronavirus.
Buthelezi’s brother, Simangaliso, corroborating the story, said while his brother was being assaulted, he tried to shield the child from witnessing the ordeal by shepherding her into a bedroom.
“I was a little too late, other officers were already on me, beating me and kicking me while on the ground inside the house. They then moved on to kick and assault my pregnant girlfriend and my brother’s 12-year-old daughter Silindile.
“My brother’s girlfriend, Siphelele, who had been in the toilet when the ordeal started, was flushed out still half-naked by a male officer, and beaten as well,” Simangaliso said.
The closely-knit Buthelezi family, who say they do not know why they were attacked, claim that there was no party or alcohol in the house on that day.
“We all live in that house with our partners and child. We had no friends or visitors on that day. In the fridge were two bottles of Brutal Fruit drinks and a two-litre Coke bottle,” he said.
According to South African Breweries, Brutal Fruit is an alcoholic fruit blend and contains 5% alcohol.
Buthelezi, who is currently undergoing counselling sessions for depression at a Krugersdorp mental facility, said after the vicious assault he was admitted for 21 days to the Clinix Lesedi Private Hospital.
His daughter Silindile also spent some weeks at Life Poortview Hospital for trauma after watching her father being assaulted. He said that they have laid charges of assault, theft and gender-based violence.
“After the incident my daughter has not been the same, watching her father being beaten until I wet my pants. That was too much for her. I am saddened that while I protect the president, the deputy president and Cabinet ministers, on that day I failed to protect my own family,” lamented Buthelezi, who joined the SAPS in 2006.
The family’s ordeal trended on social media days afterwards. They say they suspected it was the police who filmed the incident and posted it on social media. The incident was also flighted on eNCA’s Checkpoint without the family’s consent.
Buthelezi added that they were contemplating approaching the Office of the Public Protector.