'Suicidal' cop may kill himself, court hears

2012-02-27 22:30

Johannesburg - A Soweto teenager was shot dead earlier this month while police were conducting a body search on him, the Roodepoort Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

Student Constable Sipho Mbatha, accused of the killing, said in an affidavit: "I conducted a body search on him [the teenager] and it was at that time that he was fatally shot."

Mbatha's affidavit was read to the court by his lawyer Kenneth Manyage during his bail application.

He did not elaborate on how the shooting came about, but denied that he "unlawfully and intentionally killed the deceased".

The 41-year-old Mbatha allegedly shot dead 16-year-old Thato Mokoka in Braamfischerville Phase 2, Soweto on February 14.

The teenager was shot three times, apparently while lying on the ground on his stomach outside the home of his grandmother Sybil Mokoka.

On the run-up to shooting, Mbatha said: "Before entering the yard, we [police officers on duty] put our firearms on full automatic mode because it was our understanding that he was armed."

Mokoka was brought outside and ordered to lie on the ground before the body search was done, Mbatha said.

Monday's proceedings saw the State questioning a senior investigator at the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), Leon Naidoo, who was called to the scene of the shooting.

When asked if he thought there was a risk that Mbatha would take his own life if granted bail, Naidoo replied: "Yes."

When questioned by the defence, Naidoo said he heard about Mbatha's "suicidal tendencies" from his supervisors.

"There were talks of two [suicide attempts], but no one is willing to give statements... I went through his personal files but it was not noted."

Mbatha said in his affidavit the shooting happened after residents complained that the teenager had a firearm and was terrorising them.

Police went to his grandmother's house to investigate.

Naidoo said five police officers walked to the front of the yard while Mbatha had Mokoka pinned to the ground.

"The family and police heard shots go off... They saw him [Mbatha] throw his firearm on the ground... They noticed the deceased was shot several times in the head and back, and he [Mbatha] was moving away from the deceased," Naidoo said.

Opposing bail, Naidoo said local residents felt strongly about the shooting and were opposed to Mbatha being granted bail. Naidoo testified that the designated firearms officer at the Dobsonville police station earlier told him Mbatha was unstable and not allowed to carry a firearm. He said the firearms officer kept Mbatha in the office.

On the night of the crime, the commander on duty overruled the firearms officer by allowing Mbatha to go out.

The magistrate commented: "The court should call the person who issued the accused with the rifle. This would help clarify the allegations that the accused is unstable."

The magistrate asked Naidoo to explain the automatic mode on an R5 rifle.

"As I understand it, the slightest touch of the trigger can make it go off. Within a second it can basically be emptied."

Naidoo said such a rifle could have between 30 and 35 rounds.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said he hoped the court would take the feelings of the community to heart in considering Mbatha's bail application.

"As the ICD, we take the killing of people by police officers very seriously. Therefore we expect that the court will make the right decision around bail."

The ICD is waiting for various statements and the post mortem report.

Mbatha's bail application was postponed to February 28.

  • Donovan - 2012-02-27 23:07

    Perfect cop material, eh? In his 40s, unstable, armed with an automatic rifle and unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Boggle. That was my mind.

      Lunga - 2012-02-28 06:35

      Unleashed? The shooting may have been an accident.

      RA - 2012-02-28 06:49

      all pigs deserve 2 die.. so just help him along.

      John - 2012-02-28 06:52

      Accident? Employing cookos as cops is accident.What follows afterwards is the natural way of the curcumstances. Likely Sipho Mbatha was not send to school presentation.....we will be having a South African version of Norway Masacre. The words of the famous author stating: "Woman with Credit Card is like a Madman with machine gun" are....confirmed.

      Mattewis - 2012-02-28 07:29

      Yep! Not only do less than 10% of them pass their firearm competency, but it would seem that most also fail their psychological requirement! Wasn't the cop that murdered poor unsuspecting Jeanette Odendal in cold blood, also unstable? @Lunga If you had any firearm training whatsoever, you would know there is no such thing as an accident! I hope you don't own a firearm!

      Lunga - 2012-02-28 07:35

      The public should be banned from owning firearms. Period. Would cause less problems.

      Marion - 2012-02-28 07:42

      @Lunga - I firmly believe that you live by the sword you will die by the sword. However, if they disarm every legal gun owner in this country the criminals will still have guns because they simply rob a cop/security guard of his service pistol / R1 rifle or whatever.

      David - 2012-02-28 07:47

      Lunga, you fool. We're not talking about the public, this was a police officer

      John - 2012-02-28 07:59

      @Lunga Mr.Lunga, Who do you think will be the winner of the next South Africa Idol? (Eish, I don't have a place to put period here)

      George - 2012-02-28 08:00

      @ Lunga What has the fact that the public should be banned from having firearms got to do with this. This youngster was suspected of having a firearm. The person that pulled the trigger was a cop that was unstable. The Station commander should also be before court because he allowed him to handle the firearm. In any event how do you put a R5 rifle on fully automatic and do not keep it on safe. Now they are worried that the poor unstable cop wants to commit suicide. Dammit let him do so he took the life of a youngster that he could not proof was a danger to him. This cop was never endangered in any way and if you read the article there were about five cops also armed. What could this youngster do.By the way I think you should never own a firearm because you struggle to read I can only imagine what will happen if you were given a firearm. The public has nothing to do with this shooting so why on earth make such a stupid comment?

      yolie.Landa - 2012-02-28 09:53

      The shooting was definately no accident you. Ofcoz this "student police" is not the clever kind seeing that he is 41 and still a student. All he knows is that if you are a police u can shoot at a criminal. Thats the only thing he mastered

      Marion - 2012-02-28 13:11

      Ooopppssss.... Just realised it is an R5 rifle, not an R1. Sorry.

  • lhfick - 2012-02-27 23:52

    I can comprehend what went wrong and that is the reason that cop threw that rifle on the ground, finger on the trigger on fire A. Like I said before when things go wrong it can go very wrong. Noting can bring that youngster back. Facts yes there are many cops out in the field that has been found medical unfit to continue in the force, but the SAPS does not want to give them a medical board. What options do these members have at the end of the day but to continue with their duty`s and to try and cope. If they are off sick due to stress, PSTD or depression their salary's get stopped. You must remember it is your Police Force so stand up for those that have served you well and let them retire due to ill health with dignity.

      carpejugulim - 2012-02-28 06:31

      If he is a student and unstable how did he pass his psychometric testing? SAP will fight a person every step of the way for a legitimate medical boarding but is quite happy to suspend, for corruption, on full pay, where is the fairness of that? There is a reason that people apply for medical boarding and it isn't just because they feel like it. Severe stress, often severe depression and PTSD are all very real side effects suffered by concientious working members having to deal with very savage crimes. Medication works up to a point but no further and it is time that office jockeys realised that the members on the ground are not machines and deserve better treatment, couselling and assistance. The public, unless directly affected, hears about violent crime on the television and radio or reads about it in a media source, the police members have to deal with it in all its forms. Police men and women are not robods devoid of emotions and feelings, they are people just like you and me. The DFO had a good reason for declining the member a firearm and the commander on duty needs to be called into account for his actions.

      Schmee - 2012-02-28 13:09

      There are hundreds of cops that are medically boarded and they get full pay. Even their sick leave policy is far more generous than the Basic Employment Act states. I would really prefer our cops to be competent in handling a gun before they are handed one. If they lose their tempers and have a gun it takes one shot to kill. If they lose their tempers and have batons it takes a few more blows and hopefully they do reach their senses before too much damage is done.

      lhfick - 2012-02-28 20:59

      carpejugulim I thank you for your positive feedback and your comment has proved to me that there are people out there that know and understand that it is not a easy job. Satisfaction really does not come from killing, but from helping others. Thank You!

  • Nico - 2012-02-28 00:15

    Not allowed to use an R5 in full auto. Semi-auto only!

      rbczovczov - 2012-02-28 08:19

      The blame lies squarely on whoever authorized this guy into the police service. Obviously a bribe was paid for this over age psycho to be let into the force because he does not meet even a single requirement for one to join the police.

      Nicholas - 2012-02-28 08:57

      Agreed. There are so many things wrongs with this scenario. This guy was either incredibly negligent, or was a victim of some very bad training. Since when do you search a shack/house/whatever in a built up area with your rifle set on automatic? What about innocent people or bystanders in the immediate area? If for some strange reason you do have to have the setting on automatic, why was his finger on the trigger? The golden rule is that you only put your finger on the trigger when you have identified the target and you intend to kill it.

  • John - 2012-02-28 00:55

    A suicidal cop with a firearm, "the commander on duty overruled the firearms officer"... "we put our firearms on full automatic mode".. Is there anyone who is trained and competent in the handling of firearms at that police station?? At the speed with which an automatic weapon fires, at that distance from the body, the 3 entry wounds would have been within millimeters of each other, not different parts of the body as reported. The police also claim to have found 7 R5 cartridges on the scene. Where did the other bullets go? And why were they using rifles in a dense residential area like this and not sidearms? Too many "unexplained" issues here. I believe if the report is correct the "commander" should be charged as well.

  • John - 2012-02-28 00:58

    May I add that too often a rifle is a "penile" extension to some guys ego's...

  • raymond.kok3 - 2012-02-28 05:30

    there are two things that dont add up here ,one is how can you be a student constable at age 41 and two if there were incidents where he misbehaved conscerning the firearm who decided to give him a firearm again. my biggest concern was that he shot this kid with a R5 rifle and not a 9mm pistol and he said he has put his rifle on automatic before entering the shack .mr laywer please take them to a indusrial size cleaner and i bet the police will settle and slap them with a secrecy clauss as it so often happens, the cut off age for a policeman always was 35years or did it change to accomodate the mentally insane

      carpejugulim - 2012-02-28 06:34

      Raymond the cut off age for joining pf was increased to 40 as long as other recruitment criteria were also met.

      Lunga - 2012-02-28 07:22

      How do you know he didn't quit his previous job because he felt that the only way he could fight crime was joining the force? His age should not matter.

  • Dennis - 2012-02-28 05:35

    How did this lunatic get into the training school, if there is still one ??

      sharon.a.marks.9 - 2012-07-22 18:25


  • Roy - 2012-02-28 06:06

    Please do South Africa a massive favour by letting this scumbag out and then we must hope that he does commit suicide so that we are rid of him. What sort of Police Force lets a person like him through and only discovers later on that he was suicidal.

  • Jannie - 2012-02-28 06:44

    Give him bail

  • Munchk1n - 2012-02-28 07:03

    The kid was terrorising the neighbourhood with a gun, so I guess maybe he also involuntarily prevented some future murders/rapes/hijackings.

      Lunga - 2012-02-28 07:16

      The shooting must be treated as an accident. They were after an armed suspect, and therefore had every right to enter with guns set on automatic. As they say, a weapon set on "automatic" becomes very sensitive, and could go off with minimal force. If anyone is at fault, it is the station commander who sent him out without the sufficient training. Mbatha should not be the enemy here. He is the victim of a number of circumstances. We must not fail him as society and call for his head to be put on the block. It was an accident.

      George - 2012-02-28 08:07

      @ Lunga Is this Mbatha by any means befriended to you or is he parhaps your family. Remember this with great power comes great responsibility.If you want to handle such a weapon at least do so by having the responsibility that goes with it. Let him commit suicide who cares.It will save us time and money because I for one would sue the minister for millions if this was my kid. The only problem is that the taxpayer pays this. they should not pay the minister a cent and deduct all claims from his salary.

      TBlogger - 2012-02-28 08:53

      Lunga, 3 shots cannot be treated as an accident.. However, i do agree with you that the station commander should be held responsible too.. 2 apparent suicide attempts.. hmmm lets just give him a gun and see what happens?

      Lunga - 2012-02-28 11:03

      An automatic weapon can fire up to 6 rounds with one squeeze of the trigger.

  • Yolanda - 2012-02-28 07:36

    i would think that before enrolling any student cops, they should go for a psychological evaluation test. We have a lot of crazy cops roaming around, who are mentally and emotionally not equiped to be carrying guns and working in such an environment.

  • Marion - 2012-02-28 07:39

    "On the run-up to shooting, Mbatha said: "Before entering the yard, we [police officers on duty] put our firearms on full automatic mode because it was our understanding that he was armed." " Don't they teach these cops how to shoot without 'full automatic mode'? It's called 'target practice'. Our cops send a tank to crush an ant!!

  • winston.mullany - 2012-02-28 07:47

    So let this a**hole out so he can take his own life saves us tax money and less paperwork!! Who cares, his a waste of oxygen! He killed a teenager! How can the police knowingly allow a suicidal cop out in the first place!!

  • michael.e.bowery - 2012-02-28 07:51

    It has all the characteristics of an untrained man, who because of that, oughtn't to have been there at all. As a result and in a stressful situation he probably through lack of experience discharged the automatic weapon. This is why several shots were discharged and not just one I feel sorry for both the victim and the student officer - bad police management. The student should not have been there carrying an automatic weapon. Very sad for all concerned.

  • raymond.kok3 - 2012-02-28 07:58


  • Brendan Cavanagh - 2012-02-28 08:35

    Let him kill himself, SAPS have a hard enough time trying to maintain a good name without having unstable people ruining it even more for them. It is a great worry that his problems were not picked up sooner and was asked to leave. It shows just how low the standards have dropped and that SAPS will accept anything that comes their way. Come on SAPS pick up your standards to those of 15 years ago. You will get a higher standard of people applying and not just the fat and lazy who think its their right that they have to be given a job, weather they are able to do the job or not.

  • Multi - 2012-02-28 09:06

    lock him in a room with a gun and save us taxpayers some money

  • ana.curcic - 2012-02-28 09:24

    printing Lunga's statement = arming that idiot policeman.

  • Zimbobwe - 2012-02-28 09:47

    They should investigate his superiors first as to how a 40year old grown up man gets admitted as a student police office. As far as I know the admission for a police officer is between 21 and 35 years. What the hell has he been doing all his life to start training as a police officer at the age of 40???

  • Ashen - 2012-02-28 10:56

    Why don't they just let him kill himself already! Wouldn't want another victim in his hands

  • Terry - 2012-02-28 12:18

    how does the station commander give an UNSTABLE POLICEMAN A LOADED WEAPON,should he not also be accused of negligence what on earth will be next. my condolonces to all the remaining family.

  • Kimon - 2012-02-28 13:24

    he was clearly not capable of doing the job... but a price has to be paid when a life is lost...

  • marietjie.bloemhoff - 2012-02-28 14:08

    "we [police officers on duty] put our firearms on full automatic mode because it was our understanding that he was armed." So while he was pinned on the ground, when would be the right time to take the fully automatic mode off? We needed to pay lots of money to hear the only time when one is allowed to shoot, when someone life is in immediate danger???? Can't see how the 16 year old endangered any one while on the ground

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