Missing duty lists thwarts prosecution of Ermelo cops

2012-01-13 09:46

Most of the policemen who allegedly tortured Ermelo residents while trying to quell violent protests against manipulation of ANC councillor nomination lists last year will not be prosecuted due to lack of evidence.

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) investigated 28 complaints lodged by the residents but the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has declined to prosecute 15 of those.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the DPP was still considering the other 13 complaints.

Dlamini said the residents did not know the names of more than 500 police and crime intelligence officers that were deployed from various units in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng to curb the protest, and therefore, could not identify them.

“The duty sheets/registers were not kept or are missing. Without them it is impossible to identify the members who were deployed in Ermelo for the purposes of identity parades,” Dlamini said.

“In one case, a specific SAPS member from Ermelo was mentioned by a complainant. In all others, the SAPS members were not identified although in some cases the complainants indicated that they would be able to identify the suspects if they saw them,” he added.

The residents of Wesselton township near Ermelo protested for five days in February last year after an ANC faction that is aligned to Premier David Mabuza in the Gert Sibande region declined to accept their preferred candidate for Ward 5, Bongani Phakathi, and imposed their own.

Their protest escalated into a fully-blown service delivery protest over allegations of nepotism as well as jobs-for-sex and jobs-for-pals in the Msukaligwa council.

It was the first time that the ANC had invited communities to participate in electing candidate councillors that would represent them after the municipal elections that took place on May 18 2011.

The process, however, left many communities disgruntled because ANC factions still imposed their allies.

Luthuli House subsequently appointed a task team led by national executive committee (NEC) member and Home Affairs minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to investigate all the complaints with the nominations. Its findings have not been made public.

The Ermelo unrest became more of an ANC faction war when some of the residents claimed that police smothered and beat them up to force them to confess that they were paid by former Mbombela mayor Lassy Chiwayo and legislature member Fish Mahlalela to destabilise Mabuza’s administration.

Charges of public violence against more than 160 residents were also withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.

Dlamini said both Mahlalela and Chiwayo lodged complaints with the ICD. Mahlalela’s complaint, he said, was being considered by the DPP.

“Mr Chiwayo did not co-operate with the ICD’s investigators despite numerous attempts to obtain his statement. The matter is therefore closed,” Dlamini said.

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