Kennedy Road Tension Rises & ‘They Killed My Daughter’

Sunday Tribune, 25 March 2007
Page 5

Kennedy Road Tension Rises

Chris Makhaye

The arrest of four Kennedy Road, Durban men has reignited tensions between the Sydenham police and the Kennedy Road community. The four stand accused of killing a suspected mugger last month, but community members claim the main was handed over to the police alive and well.

S’thembiso Bhengu, 32, S’bongiseni Gwala, 34, Cosmos Nkwanyane, 31, and Thina Khanyile, 27, appeared before magistrate Bilkish Asmal in the Durban Magistrate’s Court and were not asked to plead. The case was postponed to Friday and the accused remanded.

The men are accused of being part of a large crowd that assaulted Mzwakhe Sithole, 26, last month before handing him to police. The prosecution claims that Sithole was suspected of mugging and stabbing Khanyile while he was jogging near the Umgeni Road bridge. The handed him over to the police but her later died in custody.

The Durban Magistrate’s court was packed with a large group of women wearing red T-shirts in a show of support for the accused. One of them was 74 year old Maria Gwala, mother of one of the accused, who openly wept when she heard that her son, Sibongiseni, had been remanded.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, an organization fighting for better housing for squatter dwellers, says the arrest was an attempt by the police to destabalise the squatter community. Chairman of Abahlali, S’bu Zikode, said Sithole was alive when he was handed over to the police by members of the community. “There are many irregularities at the local police station and we believe that the latest attack is aimed at crushing us and making us look like criminals, which we are not. We are only fighting for basic rights like better housing and land. We believe that the Sydenham police station should be investigated by an independent body about a host of allegations. Police cannot be expected to do a proper investigation about their own activities,” said Zikode.

Sydenham police station commissioner Supt Glen Nayager said police were on the verge of arresting more people in connection with Sithole’s murder. “We are showing that we are against people taking the law into their own hands” said Nayager. He said if people were scared to come to him or to the police station to report irregularities, they could contact the Independent Complaints Directorate.

Sunday Tribune, 25 March 2007
Page 12

‘They Killed My Daughter and Haven’t Said Sorry’

Chris Makhaye

It’s now more than a year since 22-year-old Monica Ngcobo died from a bullet allegedly fired by police in Umlazi’s E-Section, and her family are angry that they still haven’t seen justice done. They have heard nothing from the police’s watchdog, Independent Complaint’s Directorate, which is also investigating.

Ngcobo was killed on the day after the March 1 local government election, when police confronted a crowd protesting against the re-election of Bhekisisa Xulu as the ward councilor. Her family says she was shot at the bus stop, waiting for a ride to work for an afternoon shift at a Durban restaurant.

Her mother, Busi Ngcobo, said, “Police have not told us anything about how Monica died. At least if we knew we would have closure. It will not change anything. It will not bring her back, but it will help us. I wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about her. After that I get headaches and I am always stressed,” said the diabetic mother of four. She said Ngcobo who worked as a waitress at a popular Durban restaurant was the sole breadwinner in the house.

“The policeman who fired the bullet is able to feed his family while I have nothing to fall back on. The electricity and water bills are pilling up and there is no food in the cupboard,” said Busi Ngcobo who is relying on the generosity of families to feed her family. She said no one had come forward to accept responsibility. “They first told us police used rubber bullets, but later it was found that a live bullet was used to shoot my daughter, who was not even in the crowd protesting. No one has come forward to say sorry. Not even the police, nor the government. Mr. (Bheki) Cele (MEC for Saftey and Security) knows that my child was killed by the cops, but her remains silent. Where is the accountability here?”

Monica’s sister, Mabuyi Ngcobo, said her mother had been traumatised. She said her sister was a friendly person. “I miss her a lot. I could talk about anything and everything with her.” Monica played soccer and enjoyed other sports such as bodybuilding. ICD spokeswomen Dikeledi Phiri said investigations into the death of Ngcobo were at an advanced stage. “We are awaiting some crucial information, after which we will forward the docket to the Director for Public Prosecution for a decision on whether to prosecute”. Phiri denied that the delay was because the police were trying to protect the person who fired the fatal shot. “The delay was the result of outstanding information which was caused by the talking over of the mortuaries by the Department of Health. We are doing our best to finalise the case.” Phiri said Ngcobo’s had been kept informed. But the mother of the dead woman denies this.