Chilling and frightening similarities between the deaths of Steve Biko and Collins Khosa have emerged since reports of the findings of the SANDF Military Ombudsman’s inquiry into the death of Khosa were released on Wednesday, writes Dikeledi Molatoli
Chilling and frightening similarities between the deaths of Stephen Bantu Biko and Collins Khosa have emerged since reports of the findings of the SA National Defence Force Military Ombudsman’s inquiry into the death of Khosa were released.
Chilling and frightening similarities between the deaths of Stephen Bantu Biko and Collins Khosa have emerged since reports of the findings of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Military Ombudsman’s inquiry into the death of Khosa were released on Wednesday.
It is this parallel, coupled with potential cover-ups by authorities concerned, that is increasingly cementing one’s loss of confidence in the leadership of the ANC government in general, and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Police Minister Bheki Cele in particular.
Biko was killed by the brutal apartheid police.Khosa, a black man who was supposed to have enjoyed the fruits of liberation, “life, freedom, security and protection from all forms of violence, torture and being treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman and degrading way” – as promised and espoused in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the post-apartheid democratic South Africa – died after being allegedly assaulted by soldiers.
The striking parallels between the deaths of the two men who died in different political eras, and the handling of the inquests of their killings by government authorities, bring about an eerie sense of déjà vu in the minds of many South Africans, as history seems to be repeating itself in the most horrific and twisted way.
It is even more disheartening that, as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 coronavirus and everyone fears for their lives, black men are not only fearful of the virus, but are also under siege, killed senselessly by security officers, as we have seen with the murder of George Floyd at the hand of a white police officer in Minneapolis in the US this week.
It seems that, over the years, black lives have remained cheap to those in authority and power everywhere in the world.Xolela Mangcu, in his comprehensive biography Biko: A Life, writes that the post-mortem of his death revealed that, “on 6 September, Steve sustained a massive brain haemorrhage. The cause of his death was not disputed: complications resulting from a brain injury. Steve suffered at least three brain lesions occasioned by the application of force to his head.”
Franny Rabkin’s report in the Mail & Guardian Wednesday states that the post-mortem of Khosa’s death described the cause of death as a “blunt force head injury”, a “subarachnoid haemorrhage involving the pons and cerebellum – or bleeding between brain and the membrane that surrounds it – which then pushed the brain down and compressed the brain stem, where basic life functions are located”.
The outcome of the investigation by the Military Ombudsman, which is said to have exonerated the soldiers who were implicated in the assault, has shocked many South Africans.The striking parallels between the deaths of the two men ... bring about an eerie sense of déjà vu in the minds of many South Africans, as history seems to be repeating itself in the most horrific and twisted way.
Dikeledi MolatoliThe account by family and friends of the events that led to the death of Khosa, a 40-year-old man from Alexandra who allegedly succumbed to injuries hours after being beaten by members of the SANDF, in the presence of SA Police Service and Johannesburg metro police officers, is similar to the record of what led to Biko’s injuries after being assaulted by apartheid police.
Biko had been arrested, with his friend and comrade Peter Cyril Jones, at a roadblock in Grahamstown on August 18 1977. He was transferred to the notorious Sanlam building in Port Elizabeth after being kept in custody for 20 days, naked and manacled.Mangcu writes that the police officers at the Sanlam building had been aggressive towards Biko because they “resented the respect Steve enjoyed from King William’s Town’s security police. Stories had reached them that Steve had, in a previous stint in detention, even fought back and had punched one of the senior officers in King William’s Town, Warrant Officer Hatting.”
According to Mangcu, the police were aggressive towards Biko because of his “non-compliance” with their instructions.“When he arrived at the Sanlam building, the security police told him to remain standing. After a while, he sat down. That was when one of the policemen, Captain Siebert, grabbed him and pulled him back on to his feet. A scuffle ensued, and true to what he had told Sonwabo Yengo, Steve would defend himself. On September 6, Steve sustained a massive brain haemorrhage.”
Khosa, according to the SANDF report, was simply being “forced to comply”.“The force used was pushing and clapping in order for the men to comply with the instruction. The board found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law, Thabiso Muvhango, who caused the altercation with the SANDF members. The cause of the argument was the undermining of the two female soldiers by Mr Muvhango and Mr Khosa (gender inequality). The attitude of the two men was provocative.”
Statements about Khosa’s death are similar to the confusing and contradictory statements about the cause of Biko’s death, as reported in The Death of Steve Biko by Hilda Bernstein, published in 1978.Dikeledi MolatoliThe inquiry thus concluded that “Mr Khosa was conscious and healthy when the security forces left”.
However, this raises concern and suspicions that there is distortion of the true account of events that led to Khosa’s death.These findings stand in contradiction to the evidence considered by Judge Hans Fabricius, who ruled in favour of the Khosa family on May 15, and ordered the immediate suspension of all those involved in the alleged torture and subsequent death of Khosa.
It is also strange that the SANDF board of inquiry is said to not have interviewed members of the Khosa and Muvhango families, or any other witnesses who were on the scene, but only relied on the version from the implicated soldiers.That is absurd.Should this report be the final outcome of this inquest, we as the public must reject it with the contempt it deserves.
Statements about Khosa’s death are similar to the confusing and contradictory statements about the cause of Biko’s death, as reported in The Death of Steve Biko by Hilda Bernstein, published in 1978.Jimmy Kruger, the then minister of justice, police and prisons, “had maintained that Biko died from hunger strike, although he later amended this to kidney failure, and had mentioned different examination reports by the district surgeon, the chief district surgeon, a private specialist, who he said had all concluded ‘there is nothing wrong with this man’,” an excerpt from this book reads.
The SANDF panel consulted its own neurologist, Professor M Baker, who is said to have been “concerned” by the “junior level of the pathologist assigned to such a sensitive case”.The board states that it is Baker’s report, that there were “shortcomings and contradictions”, that led to its conclusion that “there is no injury(s) linked to the cause of death, there are no scalp contusions, the skull is intact”.
There is, however, no indication as to whether Baker himself examined Khosa’s body.The Military Ombudsman’s inquiry cannot be trusted, even if Mapisa-Nqakula has said that it is not yet complete and still sub judice.Judge Fabricius himself declared in his judgment that he “and counsel representing the Khosa family were in tandem that, at present, there is a large measure of distrust between the South African populace and government”.
The judge had also rebuked both ministers Mapisa-Nqakula and Cele for encouraging unlawful “skop, skiet en donder” behaviour, and claiming that it was citizens who “provoked” security forces.Leadership guru Debashis Chatterjee, in his book Leading Consciously, quotes the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French statesman and military leader, in the last days of his life: “Do you know what astonished me the most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always defeated by the spirit.”
The nation does not deserve ministers like Mapisa-Nqakula and Cele, who wield power by way of fear, whose power is “coercive, intimidatory and based on the fear psychosis they transmit among the masses”.As Chatterjee says: “Leaders who lead through generating fear also earn hatred – this is natural law.”
Molatoli is a social activist and director at Bamboo Seeds Communications Read more: City Press »
MYANC PresidencyZA No difference between Apartheid era police and ANC police. Only difference is the colour. Same as George Floyd but here we are afraid of a none existant virus ANC trying to pull the Apartheid card. This is appalling ntsikimazwai Longest reach RaymondSuttner Nicely written! But dont forget to include EFFSouthAfrica in your law and order list! Malema loves the SAP when they attack the people of SA!!
RaymondSuttner What kak. Straight BULLSHIT. Pure nonsense ntsikimazwai Hand of anti-ANC whites written all over the article. Attempt inciting anti-ANC sentiments by comparing the 2 murders & portraying ANC as no better than the NP in valuing blk lives. Throw in something that's happening 1000s of KMs away 4 gud effect. Khosa n Floyd r Biko, Lol.
MsimekiRAM Do you even know why Steve Bantu Biko was arrested? I am in no terms undermining the circumstances that led to the death of Collins Khosa. Your comparison is appalling. Mido Masia, Andries Tatane could have been more relevant. Don't undermine the values that Biko stood for... ntsikimazwai Steve Biko was a thorn on the side of the Apartheid machinery. And comparing his story to this one is long stretch.
Kindly correct your facts in this article, the report referred to herein is a SANDF Board of Inquiry and not a report from the Military Ombud’s Office.
SANDF's Alex report is bizarreIt is bizarre that the South African Defence Force (SANDF) internal probe has exonerated its soldiers accused of causing Collins Khosa's death. Come on, South Africa! All went crazy about the Floyd case in the USA. This is one of our OWN people who were murdered by OUR authorities. Where is the outrage for what happened to Khosa? Is it not just as bad when a black man murders a black man? Or is this simply about race? This sounds akin to a period of apartheid repression, where activists would be alleged to have hanged themselves with shoelaces in apartheid Police cells.
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