A Zimbabwean street vendor, who allegedly pushed a Malawian hawker to death while the two were fighting for space on a Nelspruit pavement, disappeared mysteriously from a police station shortly before he could be charged with murder.
The man, believed to be in his middle 30s, was arrested by Nelspruit police yesterday. This after they were told that he had pushed Malawian Moment Ali, who fell on the pavement and died.
The Malawian had apparently fallen hard on his head and bled from his ears, mouth and the nose.
The police took the Zimbabwean to the charge office but hardly 10 minutes later a police reservist allegedly told him to go.
A very angry police officer - who seemed to be in charge - was shouting at three police reservists to get out and bring the suspect back when Sowetan arrived at the station.
"I'm giving you 30 minutes to bring the suspect back or else you are in for it guys. I don't have time to play. How can I arrest a murder suspect and you let him go?
"I can't believe this has happened. Now go and look for him. Remember, you have exactly 30 minutes to bring him back," shouted the officer.
The Nelspruit police station has often attracted the attention of the media for the wrong reasons.
Sowetan recently published a story in which officers at the station allegedly starved awaiting-trial prisoners at the adjacent Nelspruit magistrate's court's holding cells.
This is in contravention of standing rules that a police station next to a court should be responsible for feeding awaiting-trial prisoners at those holding cells.
A Sowetan exposé led to a fact-finding mission to the station. This subsequently resulted in awaiting-trial prisoners being fed and looked after properly.
Recently a female police officer from the same station was hauled before a disciplinary hearing for allegedly searching a man in a way that made him complain that she had literally fondled his private parts.
Superintendent Abie Khoabane of Mpumalanga police said: "If what you say is true the suspect has actually escaped from lawful custody. We will investigate the matter criminally and departmentally."
The suspect had not been found at the time of going to press and a police manhunt for him was still on by late yesterday afternoon.