Accused residents ‘on hunger strike’

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April 05, 2007 Edition 1

MEMBERS of the Kennedy Road informal settlement who are being held at Westville Prison on charges of murder have apparently gone on a hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to their case.

This is according to residents of the settlement, who have been visiting the five awaiting-trial prisoners. However, the Correctional Services Department has been unable to confirm the hunger strike.

The five inmates were arrested in connection with the death of Mzwakhe Sithole, an Ntuzuma man who died while in police custody.

On February 15, Sithole had allegedly attacked and robbed Kennedy Road resident Thina Khanyile in Umgeni Road.

Residents of the settlement apparently caught and beat up Sithole.

Police Supt Vincent Mdunge said that Sydenham police had rescued Sithole, who had been “seriously assaulted”.

“Because of the seriousness of the situation, he was taken through to the police station for safety reasons,” he said.

Sithole allegedly had later tried to escape from the police station, but had collapsed just outside.
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Mdunge said he did not consider Sithole’s death a death in custody and denied that police had also beaten him up.

After Sithole died, five people whom police believed were involved in his assault were arrested and charged with murder.

They are now apparently on a hunger strike.

Kennedy Road development committee member Gerald Mdlalose said the five residents in jail had been on a hunger strike since Sunday because they were unhappy with their arrests. “The investigating officer in this case does not have enough evidence that they were involved in this murder.

“The man was punished and handed over to police, and the police told the people that the man had passed away,” he said.

The committee is demanding a neutral investigation into Sithole’s death that would probe the Sydenham Police and Kennedy Road residents without bias.

Correctional Services Department spokesman Manelisi Wolela could not confirm the hunger strike claim yesterday.