“This action points to poor intelligence and poor policing” — Bobby Stevenson
POLICE have launched an immediate investigation after a trigger-happy group of police officers, believed to be members of the crack National Intervention Unit (NIU), this week allegedly gunned down an innocent man in his home in a tragic case of mistaken identity.
The officers stormed into the modest Wells Estate house allegedly looking for a suspect from last week’s dramatic platinum heist in Deal Party during which six people, including five hijackers, were shot dead.
It is believed the members of the Mthatha-based unit were hunting the four remaining suspects involved in the foiled liquid platinum heist.
The dead man, petrol attendant Siyabulela “Siya” Mzima, was killed with a single gunshot wound to the head only hours before celebrating his 27th birthday.
Angry family members claim Mzima was shot when he reached for a belt while preparing to defend his girlfriend and himself after “intruders” burst into their home on the outskirts of Motherwell.
Mzima was naked when he was shot allegedly by the heavily armed police officers in bullet proof jackets.
Swartkops Police Station Commander Colonel Hennie de Beer yesterday confirmed the NIU had conducted the raid. He told Weekend Post although members of his station had not been involved, members of his staff had been at the scene after the shooting and an inquest into the death would be held.
Port Elizabeth police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said yesterday he would prefer not to comment on the shooting or the allegations that an innocent man had been killed. He said the matter would be investigated and a statement would be released when all the facts had been established.
Speaking from the family home in Motherwell yesterday, relatives and Mzima’s girlfriend Fundiswa Nkayi, 27, who was with Mzima when the raid was launched, yesterday expressed outrage.
A tearful Nkayi said she and Mzima had finished their shift at the Truck Inn in Wells Estate and had returned home.
“We went to bed. I could not sleep and was on Facebook when I heard footsteps and noises outside. This was about 1am. Then there were sounds of someone breaking in and Siya woke up. He was looking for something to defend us with and he grabbed a belt when they broke in through the back door.
“They came in, there were three black people – one of them was a woman – and one coloured man. The woman grabbed me and pushed me into another room and I heard a gunshot. They shot Siya in the head and pushed him into the toilet. He was lying there calling me, but they would not let me go to him.”
Nkayi said she repeatedly asked the police why they were raiding the house.
“They just said: ‘Siya knows why we are here’. Then they said it was about the shooting in Deal Party. I told them Siya was not there and he was at work when the shooting took place at Deal Party,” she said.
Nkayi claimed although four police officers were in the house, there had been many others outside.
“They raided the wrong address and shot the wrong person. Siya’s father has been told there were supposed to be gangsters in another house across the road. While I was in the room, I heard policemen outside saying they would tell their superiors they shot him in self-defence. They also discussed saying they had shot him with a rubber bullet and not a metal bullet.”
Nkayi added that two policemen whom she and her boyfriend had known “because they come into the shop at Truck Inn”, came to the house after the shooting and said the NIU members had shot the wrong person. “The station commander at Swartkops police station also apologised to me for the shooting,” she said.
Mzima’s sister-in-law, Bridget Mzima, said the family was furious. “Even if he was a suspect, they had no right to break in and just shoot him . . . We are not ashamed to talk about this. We know he is innocent. Siya was a church-going man.
“He has never even hurt a dog . . . He is innocent.”
DA safety and security spokesman Bobby Stevenson extended his condolences to Mzima’s family and called for an investigation into the incident. “It is tragic that an innocent person can be gunned down in these circumstances. This action points to poor intelligence and poor policing,” he said.
Motherwell resident and joint leader of the Motherwell Concerned Residents for Housing and Delivery Forum, Thanduxolo Doda, said police should be held accountable.
“We will meet with the family and discuss laying charges against the police,” Doda said.
He said the police owed the family and community an explanation. “Why did they not arrest him and take him in for further questioning?”