COLLINS KHOSA died a horrific death. Tortured, beaten and killed. His death was no different from the barbaric murders of freedom fighters by the apartheid death squads. The difference is that the tens of thousands of men and women killed during apartheid for our liberation were killed by white men. Khosa was killed by Black men and women in a democratic South Africa – the death squads sent to townships today to keep “peace and order” in the name of Covid-19.
Just like the slave master, who would whip a slave in front of his woman and for the smallest of offences – until blood flowed freely from his wounds – Khoza was tortured, beaten and humiliated in front of his life partner Nomsa Montsha and community. She later received a whipping of her life from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Three hours after the brutality, Khosa died. In a letter of demand to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Khosas said a preliminary medical opinion attributed his death to the assault by the butchers of #lockdownSA.
______________________________________________________________________________WHEN stories of police death squads emerged following the early days of South Africa’s democratic dispensation, we were horrified. We could not believe that these evil men took young men, as young as 17 years old, tortured them before burning them to ashes while having beers and braais, before throwing their ashes in a river near Vlakplaas, the headquarters of South Africa’s death squad headed by Dirk Coetzee.
The mothers of the murdered children cried uncontrollably during the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Hearings when they heard of the brutality that accompanied the joyous celebration by apartheid’s evil men during their children’s killings.
Scenes of police brutality, largely in townships if not solely in townships, and therefore by nature of the existing apartheid spatial segregation, largely if not solely against Blacks, have come to symbolise “police protection or keeping order” during South Africa’s lockdown.
Scenes of police pointing guns at shoppers in queues who are not abiding by the social distancing rule of 1-1.5m between them, or pointing guns at ordinary citizens accused of bridging the Covid-19 rules while their partners look on, take us back to the horrid days of apartheid.
But none of these scenes or stories – which will no doubt be etched in the annals of history books as part of South Africa’s fight against the coronavirus – have been more shattering than the story of Collins Khosa, the Alexander man allegedly murdered by the South African National Defence (SANDF) on Easter Friday for allegedly violating South Africa’s lockdown rules when the police found him drinking in his home.
The details of his horrifying death were captured in an affidavit deposed by his life partner Nomsa Montsha, in an urgent application to the Constitutional Court last week. She spoke of how on Friday 10 April 2020, two law enforcement officers had noticed a half cup of alcohol in a camping chair in their yard and proceeded into the house where they found Khoza, Montsha, Yvonne Mubango who was pregnant, and her two children. The SANDF members accused Khosa of violating Covid-19 rules by drinking but he explained that he couldn’t have violated the rules as the alcohol was in his yard. The two SANDF members proceeded to raid the house and found two beers which they then confiscated. They then instructed Khoza and Mr Mubango to go outside the yard. On the way there, they slammed a gate against Khoza’s car and damaged it.
The two SANDF members got Khosa and Mubango to stand in front of their beers giving the impression that they had been drinking outside their yard. The two women soldiers then called for back-up which included JMPD and armed soldiers. A further three SANDF members approached the scene and began assaulting Khosa. They poured the beer on his body, held his one hand behind his back while choking him. They slammed his head against the cement wall, hit him with the butt of the machine gun, hit him and slapped him, and rammed his face against the gate.
After the SANDF left, Montsha brought Khosa into the house. He began vomiting, lost consciousness and progressively lost his ability to walk. Montsha sat on the bed by his side until she noticed he wasn’t moving. The emergency services arrived on the scene and declared him dead.
The ConCourt dismissed the Khosa family’s direct access application on the basis that they had not shown “sufficient grounds” for direct access.
Scenes of police brutality during the lockdown are captured and displayed on social media every day. Citizens are humiliated, with guns being pointed at them for minor offences like not keeping social distancing during queues; some have been beaten and forced to perform humiliating exercises; and police have used rubber bullets and teargas to enforce Covid-19 regulations.
The watchdog body, The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has received 38 complaints of police misconduct during lockdown including a complaint of rape.
While the IPID has been slow in investigating and holding those responsible to account, the United Nations has condemned SA as being among 15 countries which are taking lockdown measures too far. “There’s a toxic lockdown culture in some countries. In South Africa, the UN has received reports of police using rubber bullets, tear gas, water bombs and whips, to enforce social distancing, especially in poor neighbourhoods. Thirty-nine complaints including murder, rape, use of firearms and corruption are being investigated,” the UN said.
The ConCourt’s decision not to grant the Khosas the urgent access to the court came at a time when government had decided to increase the number of SANDF members deployed in the streets. Over 70,000 members have been deployed until June.
Their presence, and in their numbers, in addition to the fact that they are not being held accountable for their conduct, is of great concern. The Khosas had approached the ConCourt for a number of orders. Among them, was an order to prevent further police brutality during the lockdown and the establishment of a speedy process in investigating the incidents of army and police brutality during the lockdown. They have been turned down by the highest court in the land but that does not mean their case has no merit. They will simply have to start at the lower courts and hopefully in that time, the butchers of #lockdownSA will have managed to restrain themselves and act within the Constitution of the land.