Patrollers under fire

Allegations have surfaced that a mentally-challenged man was beaten to death by Imizamo Yethu patrollers.

About a 100 youths have called for justice and the termination of the patrol group after Samkelo Mabanu, 26, died on Sunday night, March 18.

The youths claim three patrollers beat Mr Mabanu to death with heavy sticks after he was accused of stealing tools from a resident.

A spokesman for the patrollers admits Mr Mabanu was beaten but he denies it led to his death.

Police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch, confirmed a 26-year-old man was found dead in Payne Street.

“The investigation is at a sensitive stage. A post-mortem has been conducted to determine cause of death,” she said.

“A murder case was opened and no arrests have been made as yet. The investigating officer is Warrant Officer Charl Muller and anyone with any information should contact him on 079 953 0753.”

The youths protested outside the police station on Wednesday March 21 and gave the police a letter of complaint about the patrollers.

However, representatives of the group say they are now living in fear after speaking out against the patrollers and that they have been warned that if they continue to protest there will be “more bodies” on the streets.

Peter* and David* told the Sentinel they had been friends with Mr Mabanu for more than 10 years.

“He was a mentally disturbed guy and was very friendly. We are very sad about what has happened,” Peter said.

“After he was beaten to death, the patrollers told a friend who was with him to take his body home and dump it outside his house. They didn’t want Samkelo taken to the fire station, where people get treatment for their injuries.”

In the letter of complaint, the youths tell the police they are fearful because they are “getting attacked and assaulted by the patrol”.

“They (patrol) force people to take off their clothes while they beat them. They also record these assaults,” the letter states.

They also allege patrol members frequent taverns during the day and assault youths at night while intoxicated.

“Members also carry unlicensed firearms and sexually harass young women,” the letter says.

Peter said not all patrollers acted in this way, with some “just doing their jobs” to clamp down on crime in Imizamo Yethu. However, they believed that some patrollers didn’t like certain members of the community, particularly among the youth.

The patrol was formed in 2015, ostensibly to stamp out rising levels of gangsterism in the settlement. However, the youth group says “bad elements” have now turned their focus on them, beating them in the street for no reason at all.

Both Peter and David admitted they used to be involved in gang activities but had changed their ways after the initial crackdown on gangsterism by the patrollers.

Last month, former prisoner Joshua Poni claimed patrollers had viciously attacked him shortly after his release from Pollsmoor Prison. (“Ex-con accuses IY patrollers of attack,” Sentinel, February 2).

With such “abuses of power”, the youths have called for the Imizamo Yethu patrollers to be disbanded.

“No one has the right to violate someone else’s rights. Justice should be served. The patrol must fall,” Peter said.

Imizamo Yethu patrollers treasurer Happy Msenge had a different version of events, although he admitted Mr Mabanu had been beaten.

“I was not there personally, but some patrollers questioned the boy (Mr Mabanu) about the tools. He admitted that he stole them, and he was beaten, but they didn’t kill him,” he said.

“He told them the tools were in the boot of his father’s car, but they weren’t there. The patrollers spoke to the boy’s father, but he told them he didn’t want the boy in his house. I think he then must have slept outside and died from the cold maybe.”

He said beating suspects was the only way to get the truth out of them, but they were only ever beaten with sjamboks.

“That wouldn’t have killed the boy,” he said, adding that he was not aware exactly how many patrollers had questioned Mr Mabanu.

He confirmed patrollers had “questioned” the youths after the protest, and said many of them had apologised for their actions.

* Names have been changed to protect their identities.