Lucien van der Walt, 1992, “SAP: To Serve and Protect, to Torture and Kill,” Revolt, number 2, pp. 18-19.
Note: This was heavily reliant on reporting by the Mail and Guardian/ Weekly Mail at the time.
The South African police continue to assault, torture and kill people in custody. The brutal death of Simon Mthimkulu in July is one example amongst many.
In the final hours of his life, 19 year old Simon set out on an errand with his friends Joubert Radebe and Sikhalo “Lucky Boy” Haseko. It was a sunny afternoon in Sebokeng township that fatal Tuesday, July 14.
The three friends were on their way to fetch some money owed to Radebe’s father when, as they were crossing an open space, a stolen white Mazda came up against a barricade of rocks blocking the road. The driver, unable to manoeuvre the vehicle around the rocks , abandoned it and disappeared.
Police, from a casspir stationed across the road seized the three, and set off on the Golden Highway (from Johannesburg to Vanderbijlpark). On the way, the casspir pulled over and the three boys were taken out and beaten.
The police then threw them back into the police vehicle and drove to the local police station, all the while beating them with truncheons. At the station; the policemen took the three youths to a room in the back of the station, and other policemen entered the room. The floor was covered in blood.
Lucky Boy and Simon were taken into the toilet by five policemen. They were kicked and beaten. Then the police told them to do squats and pushups. But Simon could not as he was asthmatic . He asked for water but the policemen refused it. He was then kicked in the ribs.
Lucky Boy was then told to close his eyes and cover his face. Through his fingers he saw the policemen throw a huge rock on Simon’s ribs…they did this three times. At this stage another policeman entered the room and started beating Lucky Boy after which he ordered him home. Lucky Boy tried to pick up Simon – who was lying on his back and dripping blood from his nose but still breathing but the police beat Lucky Boy on the head with a sjambok. He started running and they pelted him with stones.
Simon’s mother was meanwhile frantic with worry. When she saw how his friends had been beaten she went to the police station and the hospital. Eventually she located him in a mortuary His body had been found in the veld some 12 hours after his “arrest”.
This brutal killing was what drove internationally renowned pathologist Dr. Jonathan Gluckman – who examined the body of state murdered black consciousness leader Steven Bantu Biko – to go public with the more than 200 files of people killed in police custody. He said of Simon Mthimkulu: “This is a 19 year old boy. Not charged with an offence. Tortured, ill treated and killed. He could have been a son of mine.”
Qther casrs of police brutality:
– Columbus Maqoba was arrested at home by Vanderbjilpark police on July 23 1992 in perfect health. Family members were told later that day, by Sebokeng police that he had been killed by Vanderbijlpark police. They identified his body at the Sebokeng police station where it had been brought in the back of a police vehicle. Death was by suffocation.
– Armstrong Yesake died on August 22 1991 of a massive brain haemorrhage. He was found hanging in a cell in Modderbee Prison.
– David Makgalaka, 21, died in November 1 1991 from a gunshot wound through the skull and the chest. Witnesses saw him being beaten at Louis Trichardt police station.
– Duke Serre of Rockville died on January 15 this year in what Gluckman called a “savage attack”. Witnesses saw him and his brother assaulted at the Moroka police station.
– Joseph Kaotz, 58, was arrested on a criminal charge in Hertzogville near Bloemfontein on January 17 1992. He died the next day in police custody.
The police have admitted at least 68 deaths in custody this year! How many more will the SAP – our so called guardians of “law and order” – beat, torture and murder? How many more deaths? So much about the State protecting us from crime. Clearly the state is more dangarous and violent than we could ever be. There is no way people can trust the state’s lies about its beneficial role. Everyday it gets clearer and clearer that the police is nothing more than a brutal means of keeping “our” rulers in power.
Is anybody safe while our country is run by violent groups like the NP, SADF and SAP? No, we are not. The killers have got to go NOW.