Moral precept is principal

Nobody should die, or even get hurt, while in police custody.

Nobody should die, or even get hurt, while in police custody.

This is one of the uncomfortable truths about policing.

In our South Africa, the job can also be a dangerous and thankless one, and every good man or woman in blue deserves our gratitude.

Not so long ago we screamed blue murder when apartheid killers told us someone had died in custody when he:

l Slipped on a bar of soap;

l Hanged himself with a belt; or

l Jumped from the fourth floor of a police building.

As much as the stories were unlikely, the lies were sickening. That is how some of our greatest freedom fighters such as Mapetla Mohapi, Ahmed Timol and others died.

The stench of those deaths still churns the stomach.

We are reminded of these unfortunate events by the alleged suicide of child rapist Paul Mofokeng at the Johannesburg prison on Wednesday.

An incorrigible, this lout was found with an unlicensed firearm while on the run after confessing to raping a six-year-old in Soweto.

Police say he killed himself after he appeared in court. He can never be spoken of in the same light as our struggle icons killed under apartheid.

Just as our constitution is firm on the right to life, we do not expect a single death in custody.

Prison authorities must provide a full account and assure South Africa that nobody in detention is at risk.