Lockdown brutality: victims speak out as law enforcement conduct come under scrutiny

The conduct of the army and the police has come under sharp scrutiny since the death of Collins Khosa, 40, from Alexandra in Johannesburg, who died on Good Friday after being severely assaulted, allegedly by soldiers for drinking alcohol in his yard.

Khosa's death is one incident in a growing pattern of assault cases that have been opened with watchdog bodies since the country went into lockdown three weeks ago to control the spread of coronavirus.

There have been chilling tales of gross violations, abuse of power and human rights breaches that have echoed from Alexandra to Cape Town. Some of the victims of the alleged brutality, like Khosa, did not live to tell their tale. These are some of the horror stories of the violence that has been meted out to ordinary South Africans in the past few weeks:

Victim 1

On March 31, Titus Mametse of Alexandra, was allegedly shot twice in his right arm. Mametse said the shooting happened in the afternoon as he was coming from buying groceries.

"I asked the taxi to drop me at home in extension 9. I was just fetching the last two plastic bags [from the taxi] when I saw a white car passing by. The person on the driver's seat opened the window and had a gun pointed in my direction. I realised it was a police officer and he was shouting for me to go inside [the house]," Mametse said.

He said as he was still confused about what was happening, the police officer allegedly fired five shots in his direction and he was hit twice in his arm.

"I ran inside and I could feel blood gushing out of the wound. When I checked I had a big hole and the bone was showing. I called an ambulance and went to the clinic. When I asked for advice at the clinic I was told that I could not open a case as I was shot with a rubber bullet," he said.

Mametse said he has been struggling to sleep at night because of the pain.

Victim 2

In another Alexandra incident, Thabo Shele (not his real name), a 32-year-old law student was allegedly shot by police in his left leg outside his house.

"It was on April 6 when I heard a movement outside my house. I went to check and I saw a guy running past... As I was about to go
inside two police officers, a traffic cop and one soldier drove past. They thought I was the person who was running. I tried to explain but they fired one shot, which hit me above my left knee," he said.

Shele was hospitalised and discharged the following day. He could not go to the police station the next day. But he was shocked when four police officers and two soldiers came to his home demanding to see his wound. He refused.

"I fear for my safety... My lawyer has advised me to go to a place of safety," he said.

Victim 3

Walter Manyani, 33, was allegedly shot in the right leg as he was going to the outside toilet in a yard he shares with more than 10 families.

"It happened on March 31. I had stepped outside the gate when I was greeted by a gun, I was told to go inside. I was not even sure if they had shot, I only realised later when I saw blood flowing in my right leg. When I checked I had a big hole next to my knee. My life will never be the same again because I am working as a hairstylist which requires me to stand almost the whole day. I am hoping for the law to take its course," he said.

Victim 4

On April 6 Lucky Makhubele, 26, was at home with his brother when two police officers and a soldier knocked on their door.

"They demanded to know where I had hidden dagga. One police slapped me in the face and told us to go outside. We were told to join others who were rolling on the tarred road. They kept beating us with sjamboks. After that they said we should klap each other, which I found very inhumane," he said.

Lawyer Tshepo Mojapelo told Sowetan that they had already taken down statements from the victims and would take up their cases.

Victim 5

On March 29, Sibusiso Amos, 40, was killed in Vosloorus when Ekurhuleni metro police were allegedly attacked while trying to make an arrest for violation of lockdown rules. Four children were also shot and injured.

An EMPD officer and a civilian were arrested and face murder and attempted murder charges.

Victim 6

On April 2, SANDF members allegedly stormed into a Cape Town woman's home after 8pm and assaulted her daughter.

Tersia Pedro of Eerste River said a female soldier assaulted one of her daughters and spewed profanities at her, before taking her phone and deleting a video of a scuffle between a neighbour and police that she had recorded.

She said her children had a gun pointed at them, while her husband had a gun shoved into his mouth and was beaten until he struggled to breathe.

Victim 7

A man was allegedly beaten with a hammer by police in Cape Town during the lockdown. The man later died. But police minister Bheki Cele told the nation in a media briefing that the man had died of a heart attack.

Victim 8, 9

On April 4, Sima Booi had to watch helplessly as his wife was turned into a punching bag, allegedly by a police officer.

Booi, 34, alleged he was also assaulted when he tried to stop the officer who was beating his wife Madonna Booi, 32.

The incident happened at Komani police station in the Eastern Cape after the two were arrested while walking to Checkers to buy groceries.

The couple said they have not found any joy after opening a case against the officer.

Victim 10

On April 6, Sipho Monaiwa was punched, slapped and sjamboked allegedly by police and soldiers for watching them while on patrol in the evening in Protea South, Soweto

When his family went to the Protea Glen police station to lay a complaint they were allegedly turned back and told by police that they were breaking the lockdown regulations by not being home.

Victim 11

On April 9, Victor Chiloane, 47, was hit with the back of a firearm on his head and shot seven times with rubber bullets, allegedly by an Ekurhuleni metro police officer in Mayfield, Daveyton, during an eviction.

Khosa's family, meanwhile, has since written to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding financial compensation for loss of support, trauma, shock, psychological assistance and any medical expenses that they may have incurred. The family has opened a murder case at a local police station.

SANDF spokesperson Col Louis Kirstein said the military will co-operate with police investigations.

"The SANDF reiterates that its members are expected to act within the confines of the law during this difficult period as they enforce the lockdown regulations and help save lives in support of the police. Any action outside the law will not be condoned," Kirstein said.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate has refused to give the latest statistics of cases which have been reported to it.

However, in its last update, Ipid said it recorded 38 complaints about the conduct of police officers from the start of the lockdown until April 2.

These included two deaths of unidentified people in police custody in Limpopo.

The watchdog also recorded six deaths as a result of police action, two each in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. A total of 12 cases of discharge of an official firearm, one of rape by a police official, 14 of assault and three cases of corruption had been reported.

Of the total complaints received, 14 were recorded in Gauteng, and Free State and KwaZulu-Natal recorded five cases each.

Since the lockdown began, a total of nine people have died due to alleged conduct of police and SANDF members.

Police did not comment at the time of going to press.