Thursday, July 4, 2019

New ‘shoot-to-kill’ fear as Swaziland police gun down three suspects as they fled

Police in Swaziland / eSwatini have been criticised for shooting dead three men after setting fire to the building they were in in what appears to be another case of ‘shoot-to-kill’.
The three men were reported in local media to have escaped from Big Bend Correctional Facility. Police were told they were hiding in a rondavel in a homestead at Manyeveni, near Mpaka. 

The Times of Swaziland reported a source saying there was an exchange of gunfire. It added, ‘The officers reportedly doused the rondavel with petrol and then set it alight. This forced the three men out of the rondavel and that is how they got shot, narrated the source.’

A source told the Swazi Observer,One of the suspects jumped out and tried to run for it and did not heed calls to surrender. He was shot and killed in the process.’

The Times said, ‘People who visited the scene after the shooting told this publication that the homestead resembled a war zone.’

In an editorial comment, the Times criticised the police action in setting fire to the rondavel and said, ‘surely they could have apprehended the suspects without killing them’.

There is evidence that police in Swaziland routinely ‘shoot-to-kill’ suspects. In July 2018 at least 30 officers shot and killed a man as he fled after they had stormed his home at Matsebula. 

In August 2017 Siboniso Brian Mdluli, aged 22, who police wanted in connection with armed robbery, was reportedly killed at point blank range in ‘cowboy style.’  His family demanded an inquiry saying Mdluli was assassinated by trigger happy police officers for no apparent reason.

In November 2015 police shot a man at close range after he overturned rubbish bins and then ran away from them. The Times of Swaziland, reported at the time that a 21-year-old man had been suspected of throwing rubbish in the road and pelting vehicles with stones. The newspaper said, ‘he was shot by police at close range after refusing to board their vehicle’.

A plain-clothed policeman shot an unarmed man in the back killing him while on a public bus in February 2014. The man had allegedly stolen some copper wire before boarding the bus, travelling from Siteki to Manzini. The Times Sunday newspaper reported at the time the driver of the bus Majahonke Zikalala said, ‘the man was attempting to force his way out of the bus, the police officer shot him in the back, near the spine… the man fell on the floor after which he was handcuffed while he bled’. He died of his injuries at the scene.

In March 2013 Swaziland police shot a man dead in front of his 11-year-old child as he held his hands up in an attempt to surrender to them. Thokozani Mngometulu, aged 31, was killed as he got out of his car at his homestead in Dlakadla, in the Shiselweni region. Thokozani’s family, who also witnessed the killing, said he was shot in the pelvis at close range by a police officer.

In June 2012 a serial rapist suspect Bhekinkhosi Masina, popularly known as Scarface, was shot by police as they cornered him for arrest. Police said they only shot him in the thigh and he unexpectedly died of his injuries. The Times of Swaziland newspaper later revealed he had been shot six times, including in the head and back.

In July 2012 a mentally ill man, Mduduzi Mngometulu, aged 34,
was shot seven times by police and died of his injuries. He had four holes in his stomach, one in the leg and two bullet wounds on the left side of his chest.

These are not isolated incidents in Swaziland where police across the kingdom have a growing record of killing or maiming suspects before arrest. The cases have largely gone unreported outside of the kingdom itself.

In one example, police executed a suspect Thabani Mafutha Dlamini at Nkwalini in Hlatikulu in the presence of his colleagues and home boys
in what local media called ‘cowboy style’. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported the incident in December 2011 saying, ‘Police had previously warned the mother of the dead man to “budget for funeral expenses” as they intended to remove him. He was said to be on a police “wanted list”’. Dlamini was unarmed.

In a separate case in February 2011 a Swazi policeman shot Mbongeni Masuku, described in media as a Form IV pupil, in the head in what was later described as
‘an execution-style killing’. The killing happened outside a bar in Matsapha. Masuku’s uncle Sigayoyo Maphanga said Mbongeni had been dragged out of his car by police. He told the Swazi Observer, a policeman whom he named, ‘shot my nephew at the back of the left ear and he fell on the ground with blood oozing from his mouth and ears. We were all shocked and angered by such brutality from police officers.’ 

In May 2011 Mathende Matfonsi was shot dead by police while he was attending a field of dagga (marijuana) inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique. His family accused the police of ‘cold-blooded murder’. Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane had previously been shot dead by soldiers at night.

In March 2010 police
shot a man as he was trying to surrender to them. This time the victim, Mncedisi Mamba, did not die. His mother Thoko Gamedze said Mamba had his hands up and was surrendering to police, but they shot him anyway.

See also
Police killing, family demand answers
‘Police execute man cowboy style’   

Police shoot surrendering man

Swazi police ‘murder’ suspect

Police ‘execute’ suspect in street

Swazi police shoot-to-kill again

Police shoot and kill mentally ill man

Police ‘shot accused rapist in head’

Police shoot-to-kill on bus

Police kill surrendering man

Swazi police shoot-to-kill

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