Mom can't afford to bury son found dead days after police released him

2019-06-22 08:33
Sipho Mpinda. (Supplied, GroundUp)

Sipho Mpinda. (Supplied, GroundUp)

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The family of Sipho Mpinda, a 22-year-old mentally disabled man found dead days after his release from police custody, are struggling to raise the funds needed to bury him, GroundUp reports.

On Monday June 10, police told Sipho's family he had been found dead.

On the previous Thursday, Sipho had been arrested at Khayelitsha shopping mall and detained at the Lingelethu West cells. He was released without being charged.

When GroundUp first reported on the death, Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said after the family reported Sipho missing, "all endeavours by police to locate him were unsuccessful, and his body was discovered at the morgue the next day. He was allegedly involved in a culpable homicide [hit-and-run] accident".

Nobuhle Mpinda, Sipho's sister, said she has no idea why her brother would be on Swaartklip Road, where it is alleged he was knocked over and killed.

She said Lentergeur and Lingelethu West police gave conflicting accounts of the accident.

Mpinda said: "We [the family and local residents] are confused because Lingelethu police said it was a hit-and-run accident, but a Lentergeur detective said the driver hit Sipho and stopped before calling the police to the scene."

She said a detective told them the driver said he checked Sipho after he had knocked into him and noticed that he had injuries, but that he was not bleeding.

"That he wasn't bleeding from the injuries shows that they were not fresh as they occurred before the accident," she said.

The family believe Sipho was beaten by police. Residents protested outside Lingelethu West police station after they heard of Sipho's death.

A source at police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), said its investigators were present when the autopsy was conducted at Tygerberg Forensic Pathology Services.

"Preliminary findings confirm the cause was consistent with motor vehicle incident," said the source, quoting from the autopsy report.

'No evidence death result of police action'

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini said a preliminary investigation had "established that Mr Mpinda was run over by a truck belonging to the City of Cape Town".

The City referred GroundUp back to the police.

"At this stage there is no evidence that his death was due to police action. As a result the docket will be handed back to the SAPS for further investigation," said Dlamini.

"The allegations of beating have not been corroborated by witnesses or [CCTV] footage. In such matters, it is important to follow evidence," he said.

Dlamini said IPID would only investigate Mpinda's death "if there was police misconduct in the arrest and release of the deceased".

Sipho had been arrested on suspicion that he was trying to break into a car, but the owner of the car, Loyiso Feke, said he had left Sipho, who had accompanied him to the mall, to wait beside the car.

"Wrongful arrest is a civil matter. IPID only investigates criminal matters," said Dlamini.

Traut said: "Both our criminal and departmental investigations are underway and the outcomes of these investigations are yet to be determined."

Family left destitute

"We wish the police officers could raise funds to help us to give my brother a decent and dignified funeral," Nobuhle Mpinda told GroundUp. "My mom is worried sick about the funeral. She doesn't even eat sometimes."

Mpinda said her family, who live in Sika Le Khekhe informal settlement, have no money for the funeral. The family of seven were dependent on Sipho's disability grant.

"Currently, we don't even have money to buy tea for mourners who come to give us emotional support," said Mpinda.

A woman, who knew the family from the Eastern Cape, bought groceries for them last week. "If she had not bought us the groceries, we would have nothing to eat now," said Mpinda.

The family wishes to bury Sipho next week beside his father's grave in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, but they need thousands of rands to do so.

"Residents promised to put money together to pay the taxi driver, but we are not sure if they will all manage to produce the money because some of them don’t work," said Mpinda.

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