Top cop's brother in death riddle
Ingrid Oellermann, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - South Africa's top cop, Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, had the grim task of identifying his dead policeman brother on Sunday, and then conveying the news to their mother.
Skhumbuzo Mkhwanazi, 32, a constable in the public order police unit, had apparently been socialising with friends in downtown Pietermaritzburg on Friday night.
He was allegedly involved in an altercation with a fellow policeman, who stopped his Toyota Tazz after a minor scrape in the early hours of Saturday morning.
His car was said to have struck the side mirror of another car when he made a U-turn outside the Watson Hotel.
Police, believed to be from the tactical response team, apparently gave chase and succeeded in stopping Mkhwanazi’s car near Makro.
After he was disarmed of his service firearm, a scuffle allegedly ensued between Mkhwanazi and police officers, following which he was believed to have fled and vanished into the bush next to the road.
The Witness was told the only visible injury to his body appeared to be a small laceration on his cheek.
The cause of his death, however, remains a mystery.
Indications are that he may have tripped over a tree stump, falling about five metres down an embankment and landing in the long grass which concealed his body.
A high-profile investigation is under way to probe his death.
On Sunday morning, acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant General Mkhwanazi, 38, paid a brief visit to the scene where his brother’s body lay to “see for himself” before leaving to break the news to their mother.
He later told The Witness he was not in a position to discuss his younger brother’s death, which he regarded as a “private matter”.
He indicated that the family wanted to be left alone to grieve privately.
The discovery of his brother’s body followed a long search which began in the early hours of Saturday when the younger Mkhwanazi was allegedly involved in the altercation with police who apparently knew him.
KwaZulu-Natal provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker, who also attended the scene where the body was found, said the cause of death would only be determined by a post-mortem and inquest.
Naicker said police would investigate all possibilities, including that Mkhwanazi may have suffered a heart attack, died as a result of a fall or even as a result of a possible assault.
“At this stage we cannot say whether the witnesses who have made a report are telling the truth or if there is more to the matter, but we will get to the bottom of it,” said Naicker; “It does seem rather perplexing.”
The Witness was told that police searched for Mkhwanazi immediately after he allegedly ran off, but could not find him in the dark.
At first light on Sunday a “line search” conducted by Mkhwanazi’s colleagues in the public order police unit as well as the dog unit, found him lying in the long grass.
Mkhwanazi was single and lived with his mother in the Oribi area.
His brother was appointed acting police chief after President Jacob Zuma suspended General Bheki Cele in October last year pending an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.