100 victims of police brutality take legal action

2011-05-07 17:23

Landelani Nxumalo lost her son, Bongani Mathebula, in the riots that rocked the town of ­Ermelo this year.

She says he was walking back home from a traditional healer’s surgery when he was caught in the crossfire of police shooting at rioters.

Nxumalo is one of more than 100 Ermelo residents, many of whom sustained injuries at the hands of riot police, pursuing legal action against police.

“I will fight for my boy to the bitter end. He was a responsible child and I depended so much on him,” says Nxumalo.

The victims’ lawyer, Chabedi Butelezi, says he has begun ­collecting information such as medical reports from the ­victims to prepare for the lawsuit.

“We’re still assessing each case. We will then look into medical reports of those who were assaulted and those who were detained unlawfully.”

Butelezi also represents other ­residents who are facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

Wesselton township, near ­Ermelo, went up in flames in February when residents started a protest march against the ANC’s Gert Sibande region for rejecting their favourite candidate councillors for elections and imposing their own.

The march escalated into three days of rioting against the Msukaligwa Local Municipality’s record of poor service ­delivery, sex-for-jobs and bribes-for-jobs.
 
Residents who say they had not participated in the march, claim they were also injured ­after police started shooting ­indiscriminately at people.

Many, like community leader Dumisani Mahaye, also claim that police tortured them at the Ermelo police station.

Simon Yende (68) says he lost his right eye in the chaos ­after he was hit by a rubber bullet while walking along a street in Wesselton.

Thembeni Mbuyisa (78), a granny who can only walk a short distance, is facing charges of public violence. Mbuyisa said police found her sitting under a tree in her yard, after a neighbouring boy had run into her ­unlocked house to hide.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Lindelani Mashigo says he will wait for the Independent Complaints ­Directorate (ICD) to finish its ­investigations before commenting.

“We’ll have to tread carefully until the ICD tells us what the ­position is on all the cases.”

Directorate spokesperson Moses Dlamini says two of the 33 complaints they are investigating are deaths. The rest are mostly assaults and malicious damage to property.

He says the assault cases are nearing completion but the death cases are still under ­investigation.

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