Death in custody: questions raised

2010-01-06 00:00

A TAXI owner from Waaihoek near Ladysmith died in police custody on Monday.

There are conflicting statements about the man’s death. The police allege that he jumped from a moving police vehicle, but members of a taxi association say that he was suffocated with a bag.

Magundwane Thungo was arrested by members of the Public Order Policing Unit, allegedly in possession of an AK47 assault rifle.

Police allege that Thungo (40) was taken into custody and was being taken in a police minibus from Waaihoek to be detained in police cells in Ezakheni when the incident took place.

On the Helpmekaar road towards Ezakheni, Thungo is alleged to have pushed a police member aside and forced the sliding door of the vehicle open.

He then jumped out of the moving vehicle and died of the injuries he sustained during the fall.

A member of the Klipriver Taxi Association in Ladysmith said it sounded strange that a man arrested for possessing an assault rifle could easily push policemen around and jump out of a moving vehicle. Thungo was affiliated to the association.

“Although we have our doubts about the whole incident, the family will get to the bottom of the matter to know exactly what happened in the vehicle. From what we have now there’s a suspicion that the deceased was suffocated with a bag before he died,” said the member on condition of anonymity.

Provincial police spokesperson Director Phindile Radebe said a docket of culpable homicide has been opened at Ezakheni police station and the Independent Complaints Directorate will investigate the matter.

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