Shortly after the implementation of the lockdown restrictions early last year, there were several reports of law enforcement brutality and assault. It is believed that many of these incidents have been unreported. One of the widely publicised incidents is that of Mr Khosa, whose life was cut short because of military soldiers’ brutality. The lockdown did not introduce brutality by law enforcement officers but instead, just exposed it. This is evident in that our courts are faced with claims of this nature daily. This is notwithstanding the probability that most of these incidents go unreported. Lack of public awareness; knowledge about claiming processes; little or no faith in the justice system and the general feeling of helplessness are among the reasons why many victims of law enforcement brutality do not report the brutality and assaults.
The Ministry of Defence & Military Veterans is currently being sued by 2 siblings who were ill-treated, swore at, brutalised, and assaulted by military soldiers. This incident took place on 29 August 2020, at Esikhawini township, in KwaZulu-Natal. The 2 siblings were driving from Johannesburg and going home when they were suddenly pulled aside by military soldiers who appeared from the bushes surrounding the road. The victims were assaulted without reason and without any explanation. These 2 brothers had abided by all the orders issued by the military soldiers – when they were pulled over and when they were requested to step out of the car – yet they were brutalised. They never resisted nor used any form of force to defy the orders. The victims have done everything to advance their complaint through the Military Ombud’s office and other relevant authorities, without any success. As a consequence, they are now suing the State.
The victims’ lawyer, Mtho Maphumulo, has confirmed that the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans has been notified of this looming court action. He commented that they have given the State 30 days to compensate the victims for the damage, harm and loss suffered as a result, failing which they will proceed to institute action. Maphumulo believes the best way to put the matter to bed is for the State to consider early settlement in order to curb the legal costs involved. Maphumulo further indicated that cases of this nature can take anything between 2 to 4 years and, by the time the case gets to court, an exorbitant amount of legal costs would have been incurred and, it is the taxpayers who ultimately pay for these costs.
It remains to be seen whether many other victims of such brutality will come forward and sue the State.