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'We regret what happened': defence minister on death of man in Alex

Residents of Alexandra watch as soldiers move through the area. File photo.
Residents of Alexandra watch as soldiers move through the area. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Alaister Russell

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the government regretted the incident in Alexandra over the weekend where Collin Khosa was allegedly killed by soldiers.

But she said there are investigations ongoing to establish what happened.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the incident is being investigated by the SAPS, military police and the military ombud office.

“We are saddened by what happened. We regret what happened,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the defence force will not defend what happened. “We hang our heads in shame that we have lost a person in some of the communities and we will not at any point defend what happened,” she said.

At the same time, the minister insisted that soldiers must not be provoked and people should stay at home.

“We are not taking these measures because we are a mean government,” she said, adding that people must give them time to investigate the matter.

Mapisa Nqakula said a delegation from the defence force visited the family on Wednesday and extended government’s condolences.

“The delegation that visited the family home in Alex yesterday was well received.

“There was no anger or bitterness,” she said.

Details of what happened to Khosa emerged in a legal letter of demand to President Cyril Ramaphosa, SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE reported earlier.

“Preliminary medical opinion is that the cause of death is directly related to the assault by the members of the SANDF,” read the letter of demand.

The Khosa family have demanded financial compensation for loss of support, trauma, shock, psychological assistance and any medical expenses that they may have incurred.

TimesLIVE reported that in the letter, lawyer Wikus Steyl of Ian Levitt Attorneys said that according to eyewitnesses, female SANDF members entered Khosa’s yard with sjamboks and accused him of breaking the lockdown regulations after they saw an unattended camping chair outside the home and a “half-full cup of alcohol”.

Steyl said Khosa told the soldiers that even if he had been drinking, that would not be an offence as it was inside his property.

The members allegedly did not take his response “kindly”, seemed agitated and continued to raid the house and confiscated two beers from a fridge, according to the letter.

Khosa was ordered outside and on the way out a member allegedly damaged his car by slamming the gate against it.

They then called for back-up from other SANDF members and Johannesburg metro police officers.

Three members of the SANDF arrived and were briefed on the incident.

Without seeking further details from Khosa, they allegedly “manhandled and assaulted” him.

“In particular, they: poured beer on top of his head and on his body; one member of the SANDF held his hand behind his back, while the other choked him; slammed him against the cement wall; hit him with the butt of the machine gun; kicked, slapped him, punched him on his face and on his stomach and ribs; and slammed him against the steel gate”. 

Steyl said videos of the incident recorded by witnesses were deleted by SANDF members.

“The onlookers were also threatened with violence by the SANDF and have been afraid to assist the family investigation of the matter.”

When Khosa was taken to his house he presented “signs such as vomiting, losing speech and progressively lost his ability to walk and had to be rested in bed”.

Emergency services later declared Khosa dead.

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