The Khosa family is hauling the state to court for the alleged murder of Collins Khosa at the hands of law enforcement
The family of deceased Alexandra township resident Collins Khosa, who allegedly died at the hands of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers, has instructed its legal representatives – attorney Wikus Steyl of Ian Levitt Attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi – to pursue a civil case against the state and the defence ministry.
“The family mandated the law firm to proceed with the application against the presidency and the ministry of defence,” Steyl told City Press.
He said he engaged with members of the Khosa family on Thursday and, under their instruction, would be taking up the matter in an urgent court application.
In its submissions, the family’s legal team is expected to argue that there is no justification for the actions of the SANDF and JMPD officials, who allegedly assaulted Khosa.
They will also argue that the assault was a violation of the constitutional rights to life, to dignity, to freedom and to be free from all forms of violence.
City Press understands that the plan is to have the matter heard in the Johannesburg High Court this week.
SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini told City Press that “the SANDF will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation by the SA Police Service (SAPS)”.
“The SANDF reiterates that its members are expected to act within the confines of the law during this difficult period as they enforce the lockdown regulations and help save lives. Any action outside the law will not be condoned.”
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has expressed regret at the incident.
Steyl said that, in taking up the case, they hoped to put a stop to police and army brutality, which has overshadowed the lockdown measures put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
“We want to show law enforcement officers that they are not above the law,” said Steyl.
After initially hearing about the incident, a shocked Ngcukaitobi said: “If true, this sort of illegality and thuggery should be condemned. It undermines the aims of the entire lockdown. I could refer the incident to an attorney for action against the state for wrongful death if I get [Khosa’s] details or those of his family.”
Ngcukaitobi was later put in touch with the family, going on to confirm this, saying “we have made contact with the Khosa family and we now have an attorney”.
Through Steyl, the Khosa family this week sent a letter of demand to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking him to explain what steps would be taken to ensure that there is no abuse of power during the lockdown.
Khosa, a father of three, died on April 10, and the “preliminary medical opinion is that the cause of death is directly related to the assault by the members of the SANDF”, said the letter of demand.
In the letter, Steyl detailed the assault, retelling the accounts of witnesses present during the incident.
According to the letter, female SANDF soldiers came into Khosa’s yard with sjamboks and accused him of breaking the lockdown regulations because they saw a camping chair in the yard and a half-full cup of alcohol.
When Khosa protested that consuming alcohol in the confines of his home was lawful, the soldiers became agitated, raided his fridge and ordered him outside.
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The letter indicates that they then called for backup, which included a number of vehicles from the SANDF and the JMPD.
Three more SANDF officers arrived and, without inquiring any further details from Khosa, they “manhandled and assaulted Mr Khosa in the following manner: They poured beer on top of his head and on his body; one member of the SANDF held his hand behind his back while the other choked him; they slammed him against the cement wall; hit him with the butt of a machine gun; kicked, slapped him, punched him on his face and on his stomach and ribs; and slammed him against the steel gate”.
Steyl said that, to compound the already appalling situation, the SANDF offices went on to delete videos taken by witnesses.
When Khosa was taken into his house, he “presented with certain signs such as vomiting, loss of speech and consciousness, and progressively lost his ability to walk”, said the letter.
Khosa was later declared dead on arrival by emergency services.
“Justice must be served for the family,” said Steyl.
He added that if anyone else approached him to take up the same course of action, he would be more than willing to institute a mass civil litigation on their behalf.
“I mean any violence or police brutality... They are welcome to come to us. This will also help to highlight the injustices people face at the hands of the police. The more the better,” he said.
The Office of the Military Ombudsman confirmed that it was investigating five cases which had been brought to it so far.
Two cases were reported in the Western Cape, two in Gauteng and one in Mpumalanga.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating 39 cases against the SAPS officers.
Steyl said the prosecution was looking at international law to expand the case and devise how taking on more complainants would improve their case.
He confirmed that a charge of murder had been laid as regards the Khosa case.
“The police haven’t told us who the perpetrator is, so we are going against the whole ministry; it needs to tell us who the person was because on the day of the incident he was not wearing a badge,” said Steyl.
National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo and SAPS Gauteng head of corporate communication Mathapelo Peters said investigations were under way. However, no arrests had been made so far.
Ramaphosa, in responding papers filed in court two weeks ago by the Fair and Equitable Society, defended the conduct of the SAPS and SANDF officials enforcing the lockdown.
“I have no reason to believe that they have acted unlawfully.
“In the event that there may be incidents of unlawful conduct on their part, such conduct must be reported to the relevant authorities,” Ramaphosa was quoted as saying in the court papers.
City Press could not get any response from Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko.