When protectors turn torturers

2014-10-04 00:00

A SPECIAL police unit was deployed to protect residents like Thulani Kati from local police brutality.

Instead, members of the new unit allegedly tortured Kati and a friend at their violence-wracked hostel on Wednesday night, using the notorious “tubing” suffocation method.

Yesterday, the KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas fired off shock reports to everyone from the KZN premier and police commissioner to Amnesty International, shortly after a case was opened by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

Having successfully called for the Public Order Policing Unit (Popu) to replace local Umlazi police at the Glebelands Hostel just two weeks earlier, De Haas admitted, “I now have cause to regret having made this request”.

Up to 16 residents have been murdered at the giant nine-hostel complex since March, as part of a violent extortion racket to eject tenants and re-allocate their beds.

Last month, Premier Senzo Mchunu personally assured residents that police from “outside” would provide security at the hostel, after acknowledging complaints that some Umlazi officers were “very friendly with criminals here”.

But yesterday Sibusiso Xolo, a former hostel committee member, said: “It has only got worse; we are very upset”.

Xolo said Kati was hooded with a clear plastic bag on Wednesday and repeatedly fainted, while police allegedly demanded unlicensed guns.

SAPS spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that a case of assault was being investigated by Umlazi SAPS, and that IPID was conducting their own investigation.

“The police have been deployed to monitor the situation at Glebelands,” he added.

In her report, De Haas stated: “Members of the deployed Popu brutally assaulted, and allegedly ‘tubed’ Thulani Kati and Tsepo Jali, who are among a group of residents who have allegedly been targeted by persons linked to [a corrupt local councillor]”.

In the same attack, Bongani Mthembu — leader of uBunye Bama hostel, who was shot and wounded just a month earlier — was also dragged to a local sports field, “ostensibly to be tortured”.

De Haas told Mchunu and Parliament’s safety committee that members of both police units appeared to be colluding with an unnamed eThekwini councillor to enforce the scam. De Haas said Mthembu’s attackers suddenly abandoned their torture plans when they discovered his recent gunshot wounds — likely because they feared he would die in the beating and cause “public embarrassment for yet another death at the hands of the police”.

In a separate letter to provincial authorities, De Haas wrote: “Under the leadership of the new democratic government we have police members routinely behaving in exactly the same brutal way as did apartheid police. Abuse by members of different units and police stations is rife, and it is totally unacceptable that ministers and the provincial executive are apparently doing nothing to stop it.”

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