Midlands families outraged at alleged police brutality

2011-04-28 00:00

THE family of a young Pietermaritzburg woman found hanged in a Durban police cell suspect police involvement in her death, and the family of a Bulwer man are calling on the Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate his recent assault by policemen.

Nombuso Pretty Mkhize (23) of Willowfountain, a sex worker in Durban, was arrested for public drinking and prostitution at about 8 am on April 8. Less than an hour later she was found hanged in a police holding cell.

A friend who saw her body at the Gale Street Mortuary late that night, said she had bruises and she suspects police involvement in her death.

Family and friends of Mkhize have called for an intensive investigation to her death as they “strongly” suspect foul play.

“About 15 minutes [after Mkhize was booked into a cell] police went back to the cell only to find her hanging with a piece of her clothes.

“There was no foul play suspected,” said police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naiker.

However, Mkhize’s friends said they have strong reason to suspect that police participated in her death.

“After hearing about her arrest we went to look for her at Umbilo police station at about 3 pm, but police denied knowing her. I even went to Durban Central police station, but she was also not there.

“At about 11 pm I received information that she was found hanged at Umbilo police station. I found her body at the Gale Street Mortuary and it had bruises on the face, neck and stomach,” said Nonto Lebilo.

Mkhize lived in the back yard of a Berea bed-and-breakfast belonging to Lebilo’s parents, where she and other sex workers entertained their clients.

Lebilo said she has asked Mkhize’s family to help her to push for an investigation into her death.

“Police took me into the holding cell where Mkhize died. I found it hard to believe that she hanged herself. The window she hanged herself from was too low for her to die,” said Lebilo.

Mkhize’s brother, Blondy Phungula, said he wants authorities to get to the bottom of his sister’s death. “When I saw her body she looked as if she had been assaulted,” he said.

At Bulwer on April 21 Sibongiseni Mlotshwa was left with a broken leg and other injuries after he was allegedly beaten by four police officers, who accused him of public drinking and resisting arrest when he fled a roadblock.

Mlotshwa, who is still in hospital, said that last Thursday he was driving along a dirt road in Bulwer to Splashy Fen in Underberg when he encountered a police roadblock.

He did a U-turn. This aroused police suspicion and officers gave chase.

He said he did not know why the police were after him and decided to continue driving until he neared his home.

Mlotshwa said that when he stopped, four police officers pulled him out of his car and started assaulting him.

Mlotshwa suffered injuries to his back and a broken leg, which had only recently healed from a previous break.

He was on crutches during the assault by the police.

He said that after the attack, he was bundled into the boot of a car and taken to police holding cells in Bulwer.

He was later taken to hospital in Bulwer.

The police kept him in the cells until a family lawyer intervened on Saturday and he was released and taken to a private hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

Mlotshwa’s sister, Ntokozo Mlotshwa, said the family are appalled by the conduct of the police, and decided to report them to the ICD.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed the matter has been referred to the ICD.

Attempts to get comment from the ICD yesterday were unsuccessful.

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