Two guards charged with murder after man froze to death in supermarket

Bandile Tshabalala's family outside the Heidelberg magistrate court.
Bandile Tshabalala's family outside the Heidelberg magistrate court.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Two security guards appeared in court on charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with the man who died after allegedly being locked in a walk-in freezer at a Shoprite store on Sunday.

Security guards, Sandile Shangase and Kamohelo Tsoari, briefly appeared at Heidelberg magistrate's court on Wednesday where they each face a charge of murder, three counts of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and two counts of kidnapping.

The pair was allegedly part of a group that assaulted 33-year-old Bandile Tshabalala and his friend before locking them in a walk-in freezer at the store in Ratanda for several hours after accusing him of stealing chocolates.

Bandile Tshabalala
Bandile Tshabalala
Image: Supplied

Tshabalala's family was among those from the community that had filled the court room.

Magistrate Magwaile Mashabela ordered that the media not take photos of the accused pending an ID parade they still had to undergo.

Speaking outside court, the lawyer representing the family, Mabu Marweshe, said postmortem results in their possession showed that Tshabalala died of unnatural death which is consistent with hypothermia that is caused by coldness below 90 degrees.

“We have two mandates; the first is the criminal proceedings to watch in brief and the second is to pursue civil action against Shoprite which we will pursue at a later stage.”

The case was postponed to May 31.

Bandile's aunt Thokozile Mazibuko said they were saddened by the incident. “What they are doing is wrong, when someone is caught or they suspect something they should not take the law into their own hands they should call the police and let them handle it, now look we have lost Bandile and he was the last one from that side of the family,” she said.

His sister Nelisiwe Mazibuko said: “Bandile was a very bubbly person, wasn’t a person who held back tears when things were painful or when he was hurt. He was a hard worker, I mean yes there were hard times in his life and even after he lost his job but he was still a hard worker.”

Shoprite said it was busy with an internal disciplinary process and that the branch manager has since been suspended. “Pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the law and the company’s code of conduct,” it said.

“We take our corporate responsibility to respect and protect human rights in our operations and business dealings very seriously and will not tolerate any infringement of any person's human rights.” Regarding what happened that day, the company declined to give details. “As it is a police matter, we cannot comment on the details of the incident,” it said.

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