Police response to Bazooka Rhadebe's murder very concerning - LRC

Attorneys say investigators have not had any visible forensic capacity at the processing of the body or at the crime scene

Attorneys deeply concerned about police response to Amadiba Crisis Committee murder

30 March 2016

The LRC and Richard Spoor Attorneys, who have offered assistance to the family of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, murdered chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), are deeply concerned about the response of the South African Police Services (SAPS) to the investigation surrounding his death.

It is believed that Mr Rhadebe was assassinated last week by unknown assailants. The ACC were opponents to proposed mining in the area by an Australian mining company.

We do not believe that the SAPS is providing adequate resources to the investigation.

There have been multiple incidences where investigators have not conducted their investigative functions and have cited transport issues as the reason for not having done so. They have not had any visible forensic capacity at the processing of the body or at the crime scene.

We arranged to have an independent forensic pathologist and an independent ballistics expert form part of the post mortem procedure with the state doctor, as is the family’s right under the Inquests Act. We experienced significant resistance from the Mzamba Police Station. While we had informed the Investigating Officer from Mzamba station of this intention, the post-mortem commenced without our pathologist’s participation on Thursday, 24 March 2016. When we arrived at the scene, the Investigating Officer attempted to persuade our clients that the post-mortem must proceed.

While our pathologist was available on 25 March 2016, the post mortem was postponed to 29 March 2016. When our pathologist arrived for the post mortem, the Investigating Officer again frustrated his participation by engaging directly with our clients. We are grateful to the staff of Saint Patrick’s Hospital for their cooperation in ensuring our clients’ rights were eventually respected. 

We must further note that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) agreed to inspect the scene with our independent expert at 10:00 today, to be followed by an inspection of the hijacked vehicle used by the culprits in the commission of the crime at the pound in Port Shepstone. The Hawks had not arrived at the scene when we left at 13:00. When we arrived at the Port Shepstone pound, we learned that the vehicle had been released to the owners on 24 March 2016, nearly a week ago, without the Hawks having inspected it. When we conveyed this to the Hawks, they were as surprised as we were that the vehicle had been released.

The LRC and Richard Spoor Attorneys Inc. would like to stress that a comprehensive, independent investigation that ensures justice for Mr Rhadebe’s death is required. This requires the proper processing of the crime scene and the hijacked vehicle. The family must be allowed to participate in and monitor the process.

We will be drafting a report regarding our independent investigators’ findings to assist the relevant authorities in their investigation.  We have already shared detailed statements of key witnesses with the SAPS and would have expected them to show commensurate energy and commitment to search for answers and regularly report to the family and the crisis committee on progress.

We recognise that the media may require comment from the SAPS. Similarly, the South African public can expect progress reports from the SAPS.  Queries can be directed to Mzamba Police Station (Lieutenant Colonel John, Station Commander; Warrant Officer Mshiywa, Investigating Officer), Port Edward Police Station (Warrant Officer Nzimakwe), and the Hawks’ offices in Mthatha, Mbizana and Port Shepstone (Major General Nogwanya; Lieutenant Dindi; Sergeant Wapule; Captain Manyise).

Security at the funeral on Saturday and the memorial service tomorrow

The SAPS has proactively engaged with the ACC to ensure security at the memorial service to be held tomorrow at Lurholweni and at the funeral to be held at the family home in Mdatya at 09h00 on Saturday 2 April. The Cluster Commander based in Mt Ayliff, Brigadier Mtukushe, has appointed the Area Commander of Mbizana, Capt Freemantle, to prepare an operational plan to secure the safety of the community and solidarity visitors. The ACC and the taxi association, and a number of supporting NGOs and CBOs, have arranged for dedicated marshals to direct traffic and cooperate with the SAPS.

We are grateful to the SAPS for their cooperation in this regard.

DMR task team

Yesterday, the Department of Mineral Resources announced that a task team will travel to the area to address concerns and “reduce tension.” We note that neither ourselves nor our clients have been contacted by the team.

A structured approach to community security and safety must be based on an assessment of the risks and triggers for irrational violent actions by, or organised by, those who have much to gain if democratic wishes are ignored and disrespected. A dedicated investigation into the murder is a necessary part of this process.

The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.

Statement issued by Claire Martens, Communications Officer, LRC, 30 March 2016