Mpembe trial: It is a police officer’s duty to report death in custody, court hears

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It was the police’s duty to report the dead body of a mineworker found in a police truck in Marikana in August 2012, the North West High Court heard on Friday.

An investigator from the police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) told the court that Captain Oupa Pule was the crime scene manager at the time and he should have reported the matter.

He was testifying in the trial against Pule, former North West deputy police commissioner Major-General William Mpembe, Gideon van Zyl, and Dingaan Madoda.

The four are facing charges of contravening the Commission Act, contravening the Ipid Act and defeating the ends of justice.

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The State charged that they concealed the circumstance of the death of mineworker Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala who died in a police truck in Marikana on August 16, 2012, after the police opened fire on striking Lonmin mineworkers, killing 34 of them.

At the time, the mineworkers waged a violent wildcat strike demanding to be paid a minimum monthly salary of R12,500.

Under cross-examination by Advocate Michael Ramashaba for Madoda and Pule, the investigator said a police officer is obligated to report a death in police custody irrespective of their ranks. He pointed out that Pule had a rank of captain at the time, and he was junior to the other three accused, but he was the one who showed the local crime record officer the scene and photographs were taken.

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He said Pule should have reported the death of Sagalala.

Ramashaba said there was no act under Ipid that stated it was criminal behaviour for a police officer to fail to make another officer file a report.

He said Ipid knew about Sagalala’s death two days after the incident.

“I put it to you that at least by August 18, 2012, Ipid knew that a person died in a police truck. Failure to investigate until 2016 was pure negligence,” Ramashaba said.

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The investigator replied that Ipid was only aware that Sagalala died in hospital, and it was the availability of photos that proved otherwise.

Ramashaba said the categorising of the places of death from scene one and scene two was done by Ipid seniors. The police made a report about the death of 34 people and many injured without categories.

The trial was postponed to August 12.

African News Agency (ANA)

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