Finally, some justice: Collins Khosa’s family hails ombud’s report
Four soldiers implicated in Khosa’s death refused to be interviewed, but the ombud continued his investigation
The family of Collins Khosa, who died on April 10 after an altercation with South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers, say they have been vindicated by the military ombudsman, who agreed with their version of events.
Wikus Steyl, the lawyer helping the family with a civil claim against the state, said he spoke to Khosa’s relatives after defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula made the omud’s findings known in parliament on Wednesday evening.
“Though we have not seen the full report because it is not public yet, we are happy with findings of the ombud, which clearly show that there was an honest, proper investigation that was followed.
“We are happy that the ombud interviewed witnesses and showed he wanted to get to the bottom of the issue,” said Steyl.
Khosa’s bother-in-law, Thabiso Muvhango, who witnessed the alleged assault in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra, said the findings were a step in the right direction for the family to find justice.
“This is what we told them from the beginning, that those soldiers were wrong to even get into our yard and assault Collins like that. Though nothing will bring him back, we are glad that the ombud’s findings correspond with what we saw on the day and what we have been saying all along,” he said.
This is what we told them from the beginning, that those soldiers were wrong to even get into our yard and assault Collins like that.Thabiso Muvhango
Mapisa-Nqakula told parliament the soldiers implicated in Khosa’s death were found to have acted improperly, irregularly and in contravention of their code of conduct.
She said the military ombud, retired Lt-Gen Vusumuzi Masondo, recommended that appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against the commander of the platoon, who was on the ground, and those who were with the commander.
He found that the soldiers, in entering the Khosa residence for the search and seizure of liquor, did so in the absence of the Johannesburg metro police department (JMPD) and the SA Police Service (SAPS), who they were meant to be supporting.
“That was outside the scope of the SANDF,” Masondo said.
Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs: “From the evidence, it is concluded that in the process of conducting the search for alcohol, various acts of misconduct were committed by, unfortunately, the soldiers.”
The minister said she received Masondo’s report on the incident earlier this month. It showed that the four implicated soldiers had refused to be interviewed during his investigation. However, that didn’t stop the ombud, who conducted interviews with several other witnesses, including Khosa’s partner, tenants at the house and neighbours.
“Unfortunately, the four members of the SANDF who have these allegations hanging over them reserved their right to remain silent, having been advised by a lawyer who was representing them,” she said.
“People will say it is understandable that they would do that because there is a criminal investigation which is currently going on, so maybe due to fear of incriminating themselves, perhaps it was correct not to provide answers to the military ombud. That still did not mean the ombud could not make a finding on this case.”
The police confirmed to Times Select that a murder case has been opened, but that no arrests had been made.
The ombud does not deal with criminal investigations, but has a responsibility with regards to the behaviour of SANDF members.
“I have since written a letter to the chief of the SA National Defence Force [Gen Solly Shoke] to give an instruction that he should comply with the recommendations of the military ombud,” said the minister.
I have also written a letter to the office of the military ombud to express a word of appreciation, but also to commit that we will indeed comply with the recommendations of his report.Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
“I have also written a letter to the office of the military ombud to express a word of appreciation, but also to commit that we will indeed comply with the recommendations of his report.”
Mapisa-Nqakula was responding to MPs’ questions in the national assembly.
DA MP Sarel Marais had asked the minister whether the implicated members had been suspended and whether they were earning full salaries while on suspension.
The minister replied that on May 21, after a ruling by the high court in Pretoria, Shoke put the four members on leave, on the instruction of the court and on full pay, pending the finalisation of the police investigation into the incident.
Khosa’s partner, Nomsa Montsha, said in an affidavit that she was at home with him and two other people when the soldiers arrived, accusing them of violating lockdown regulations.
According to medical reports, Khosa died at his home from blunt-force trauma to the head.
“They were choking him [Khosa] with their arm around his neck. They hit him, then tripped him with their feet. As they were choking him I saw he was battling to breathe,” a witness said shortly after his death.
Neighbours who recorded the altercation on their phones said they were threatened and forced to delete the footage.