13 September 2017

South Africa: No One Held Accountable for Death of Man During Red Ants Raid

In June, GroundUp reported on the violent eviction of people occupying land between Ivory Park and Tembisa townships by the Red Ants Security and Relocation Services on behalf of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD).

A number of people were injured, allegedly by members of the Red Ants, their building materials and belongings removed, and the remains of the shacks set alight. One man died in hospital from injuries that witnesses say were inflicted by members of the Red Ants.

It has now been three and a half months since the death of Samuel "Mzondi" Mabunda. Originally from Mozambique he had been living in Ivory Park since 1998.

After Mabunda's death his family opened a case at the Ivory Park police station. Land activists from Ivory Park worked with the Right2Know Campaign to try and achieve accountability for his death. Activists submitted an application to the Independent Police Investigations Directorate (IPID) to investigate the role of the EMPD in Mabunda's death. A complaint was also lodged with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA).

Right2Know says that there has been no response. "It is shocking that PSiRA, who are responsible for the regulation of all private security in the country, have not responded to this horrific incident at all," Right2Know said in a statement.

In June GroundUp reported how, on the day of the evictions on 22 May, Mabunda was not involved in the land occupation or resistance to the evictions but went to see what was happening as it was near his place of business.

Witnesses say that Mabunda fell while running away from the Red Ants. They said that a group of the Red Ants descended on him and started beating him. A video released by Right2Know (see below) shows Mabunda lying on the ground, surrounded by a group of Red Ants, and one of them can be seen hitting him with a crowbar.

Land occupiers say that Mabunda lay injured on the ground for about fifteen minutes before they could get to him, as the Red Ants would fire rubber bullets at them whenever they tried to approach him. GroundUp also has a video showing residents putting Mabunda, bleeding profusely from the slash in his stomach and head wounds, onto a wooden board to carry him to the car that took him to hospital.

Five days later, Mabunda succumbed to his injuries and passed away in the intensive care unit of Tembisa Hospital.

Mabunda's body laid to rest but family struggles

Mabunda's uncle, Sesaro Mabunda, sitting on the edge of the bed in his shack in Section 17 of Mamelodi, tells GroundUp he has been in South Africa since 1988 and currently works at a concrete fabrication company in Pretoria. He says that a few days after Mabunda's death, the family went to retrieve his body from the Germiston mortuary so that they could transport it back to Mozambique for burial. The extended family contributed what they could to raise the R5,000 for the coffin and R10,000 to transport his body back back to his hometown of Chokwe, 230km North of Maputo in the province of Gaza. The family also had to raise the R7,000 for the costs of the funeral.

Sesaro says that over 300 people attended the funeral service that was held in a hired tent on Monday 12 June. Those gathered then made their way to the cemetery in Chokwe where his body was lowered into the ground.

Mabunda is survived by his wife and two children, aged five and one. When Sesaro first told Mabunda's wife over the phone that he had been admitted to hospital with severe injuries, she started making preparations to travel to Gauteng to be with him. But then Mabunda died and Sesaro phoned her to tell her not to come. She does not have a job. She grows mielies, sweet potatoes and nuts. Mabunda used to send money to her every month.

Since 1997, Mabunda operated a small business out of a shack next to the Swazi Inn Shopping Centre, repairing shoes and cutting hair. Sesaro says that Mabunda was very popular with his customers, who knew him as Mzondi. Sesaro now sends money when he can to Mabunda's wife for such things as school fees.

Sesaro says that since opening the case at the Ivory Park Police Station, he has not heard anything from the police about the progress of the investigation. "I want the police to investigate. I don't know what is going to happen to the people who killed him, but the case must be investigated," he says. "I don't have a lot of trust in the police because from June until now there's been no movement on the case."

Right2Know has called for immediate investigations into the officers and Red Ants employees involved in the violence on 22 May, and called for the Minister of Police to take action to ensure the safety of all residents during protests and evictions from heavy-handed police actions. Sesaro Mabunda and Ivory Park activists are consulting with the Wits Law Clinic about a possible civil case against the state, to claim for the costs of the funeral and the lost income of his wife and children. Right2Know has also appealed to PSiRA "to de-register the Red Ants as a security firm given their repeated violence and criminality".

Communications officer at Ivory Park SAPS Captain Matimulane said, "We are investigating the case being referred to and no one has been arrested as yet in connection with the murder of Mr Mabunda."

The Red Ants continue to be used despite on-going reports of violence, theft and assault.

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