Murder investigation after man dies from assault at rehab centre

The Department of Social Development and the police are investigating the Magaliesburg Rehab Centre, where a man died after he was severely assaulted two weeks ago.

The man died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday. Police are investigating a case of murder.

Muhammad Shaik, 40, was admitted to the centre for drug addiction on September 28. He was severely assaulted, spent weeks in a coma, and died from his injuries on October 14.

Mbangwa Xaba, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Social Development, said social workers had been dispatched to the centre on Tuesday morning and that an investigation was underway.

According to Shaik’s sister, Moonira Sulaiman, he was in good physical shape when he was admitted.

She said that on Saturday morning, the day after his admission, he was assaulted, supposedly because he was "unruly". He was allegedly severely beaten, tied to a pole and left in the sun, and then left in a room.

"On Sunday, my brother received a call that he (Shaik) was going to hospital. They said he had had a drug overdose because he was in a coma," she said.

Read: Life Esidimeni: Woman weeps as she hears about brother's badly decomposed body

But when Shaik arrived at the hospital, Mohammed's body was covered in bruises. He had injuries to his head, pelvis, toes, and had been burned with a cigarette, she said. There were also whip marks, as if he had been beaten with a sjambok, and he had cuts on his head, as if he had been beaten with a hard object, Sulaiman said.

"He was totally paralysed," she added.

Bleeding on the brain

It is not clear who was involved in the assault, but a legal representative for the centre, Yousha Tayob, told News24 that according to his initial inquiries, the "altercation" involved patients, and that a supervisor and security guard had "intervened". He said he was awaiting statements from those involved and did not know if anyone else had been injured during the incident.

According to Sulaiman, Shaik was in a coma for two weeks, only waking up once, before the family was told he had severe bleeding on the brain, and a blood clot which was inoperable. On Sunday, the life support machines were switched off.  

She said the family had laid charges with the police. Initially, a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm was being investigated, but this had now changed to murder, she said. Magaliesburg police spokesperson Constable Rebecca Phithi said the charge was changed to murder because Shaik died as a result of the injuries he sustained during the assault.

No arrests have been made.

Also read: Life Esidimeni: Family learns of man's death, more than 6 months later

Tayob said the details of what happened were "hazy", and he was still trying to find out the details of the incident. But he confirmed that an assault had taken place at the centre, although he said it was not clear who the aggressors were. Tayob said that, to his knowledge, the centre did not use corporal punishment as an official policy, and said he believed it had started as a fight between patients.

'It’s barbaric'

Sulaiman described her brother as a large and gentle man.

"He had never been to a hospital in his life. He was born at home, but died in a hospital," she said.

She said he had tried "very, very hard" to give up drugs, and had gone to rehab before. This year, he had taken the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and had spent the month of Ramadaan fasting in a mosque – all in an effort to stay clean.

But he relapsed a few weeks ago, and booked himself in to rehab.

"We felt his battle. We saw him trying. Every time he went down, he was so disappointed. We all lived that battle with him."

She said Shaik was one of seven siblings. He had run a successful business and had three children, the youngest of whom is two and a half.

"He was the gentle giant. His heart was so big and loving," Sulaiman said.

"He went in there walking. He went for help. It’s barbaric. I won’t let my brother’s death be in vain. I won’t allow it."
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