10 November 2017

South Africa: IPID Fails Shack Dweller After Police Shooting

Patrick Sobutyu was shot through both legs during a protest against evictions in the Marikana informal settlement in Philippi East in August 2014. GroundUp reported the incident: Police use live ammunition on shack dwellers.

A month later, GroundUp asked if there would be an investigation into the shooting. Neither the police nor the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) had contacted Sobutyu, even though IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini had confirmed that the directorate is required by law to investigate any complaint relating to the discharge of an official firearm by a police officer.

The IPID Act and National Instruction for public order policing require the police report the discharge of live ammunition. Yet, GroundUp established shortly after the shooting incident that the police had failed to mention the use of live rounds during the evictions.

In July 2016, GroundUp again checked with Sobutyu: No justice for Patrick Sobutyu two years after he was shot by police. Then, acting national spokesperson for IPID, Robbie Raburabu, confirmed by phone that an investigation was in progress. He said all that was outstanding was a medical report which "shouldn't take long".

A year later, in mid-September 2017, GroundUp called Sobutyu. His wife, Likhona, said neither the police nor IPID had ever contacted them.

For weeks GroundUp struggled to reach Dlamini, the IPID spokesperson. He finally replied at the end of September, saying, "The case should have been solved already." He said he would check what had happened to the case.

On 2 October in an email Dlamini said: "This matter was not reported to the IPID." Dlamini said the family could contact IPID directly and inform them that the police didn't open a case.

When GroundUp asked Likhona if they were able to lay a charge at their local police station, she confirmed they went to the Phillipi East station on 30 July 2016. "The policewoman who was busy on the counter sent us to the detective who was on duty." He told them "it is not an easy case". It appears no details were taken and no case opened.

GroundUp contacted IPID again on 9 October 2017. Dlamini said the family could lay charges at any other police station.

On 16 October, GroundUp and the Sobutyus went to the Nyanga police station to lay charges. There was an hour wait before a docket was finally opened by Warrant Officer De Bruyn. He called IPID for Sobutyu. The phone was answered by a man who refused to give his position and only identified himself as "Meyer". He said IPID could not take the case as it fell outside IPID's mandated one-year investigation period, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

De Bruyn explained to Sobutyu and his wife that the case would not be investigated by IPID, but he had would take the family to the Phillipi East station where the police would investigate the shooting.

The couple was taken to Philippi East by De Bruyn who spoke to the officer on duty and explained the case. A statement by Sobutyu was taken. A docket was then logged and a case of attempted murder was opened.

"We feel relieved," said Likhona, after finally being able to lay charges.

Sobutyu used to be a taxi driver, but since he was shot through the legs he has had to work as a taxi rank martial. He and his wife still live in the same shack in Marikana at the time of the eviction.

In October, GroundUp reported on how IPID is struggling to finalise cases, and how its reliance on funding from the police it is meant to oversee produces a conflict of interest.

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