Death in police custody: Case again delayed against 7 SAPS members including NW commissioner


Death in police custody: Case again delayed against 7 SAPS members including NW commissioner
Death in police custody: Case again delayed against 7 SAPS members including NW commissioner

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is deeply disappointed at yet another postponement in the inquest into the death of Solomon (Solly) Nengwane. The matter was postponed on 18 October 2022, in the Brits Magistrate’s Court to 16 January next year because of apparent failures by the Office of the State Attorney in providing the agreed-upon financial assistance to the persons of interest.

Nengwane died while in police custody on 6 June 2006.

The seven persons of interest are all members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and include former North West police commissioner, Major-General Jan Ntebo Mabula.

Their lawyer told the court that despite commitments from the Office of the State Attorney to pay the legal fees, such payments have been sporadic, which has raised concerns about future financial commitments. He committed to engaging the office to get finality and report back to the court in January.

But, the head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, Adv. Gerrie Nel, representing the family of the deceased, and the prosecutor, asked the court for a date in November by which the persons of interest must have their house in order. Nel argued that a delay until next year was simply unacceptable. “What the court is being told, is that nobody knows when this matter will proceed. We could come back in January and again there is uncertainty from the Office of the State Attorney. And we will be in this same position.”

“The family has been waiting for answers since 2006. Such delay is a failure of the criminal justice system, and now a failure of the Office of the State Attorney,” said Nel.

He concluded that it would not be unreasonable for the court to postpone the matter for a month for the persons of interest to get their house in order and set a provisional date for the inquest to start.

The magistrate, referring to the Constitution, ordered that the matter roll over for a further three months. The lack of urgency in the courts is a burden which weighs most heavily on the shoulders of the families of loved ones who yearn, often in vain, for justice.

The Unit is hopeful that the persons of interest sort out their funding issue by January so a date can be set for this inquest to proceed.

Nengwane’s family approached the AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit for assistance because after 17 years no one has been held responsible for his death. Nengwane was one of five people who was arrested in 2006 and questioned by the police after millions of American dollars – and drugs – had been stolen from a Benoni police station. The seven people of interest in the judicial inquiry were part of the task team that investigated the case. The stolen money and drugs were never found, however, and according to media reports, various witnesses in the case disappeared under suspicious circumstances.

Nengwane died on 6 June 2006 after he was arrested by the persons of interest. The official version is that the police took Nengwane to the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital and that he had already died when they arrived at the hospital. The police left his body at the hospital.

Read the original article in Afrikaans on AfriForum