Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has condemned the alleged negligence of police officials at the Mlungisi police station and has called for the provincial commissioner to investigate. This follows the brutal murder of three-year-old Olovuyo Moni from T-section in Mlungisi, who went missing on Sunday afternoon.
The boy’s battered body was found in the veld near Nkwanca squatter camp on Monday. He had reportedly sustained head injuries. According to the boy’s grandmother, Thembisa Tshweza, Moni was last seen late on Sunday afternoon when he went to a nearby shop after a man had given him R2 to buy chips. “After a frantic search around the neighbourhood on Sunday night, we walked to the police station to report him missing.”
Khanyisa Giwu, a family member, said they were told to come back the next day with a picture of the child.
Thembakazi Dasi, who had also helped in the search, had accompanied the family to the police station. She added that the police had indicated the procedure was to wait 48 hours before filing a missing persons report. “It was dark and all they could have done was to release one police vehicle to help us look for the boy. If they had done that instead of telling us to wait we could have found him,” said Dasi.
Moni’s body was discovered by a woman who was passing the area on Monday morning.
Mabuyane visited the slain boy’s family on Wednesday where he indicated in an interview with The Rep that regulations about police response needed to be reviewed. “This is an antithesis of what we mean when we talk about rapid response. There is an assumption that a person can go missing and later be found, but now we are in a situation where we have such incidents almost every day. I think the minister needs to review the law that regulates how police work. It should not be like that. This was not only a risk to the child, but also to the young women who went to the police station in the night hours and then to be treated in the way they were. I have already registered this concern with the provincial commissioner. Police must begin to work like servants. That is the last place where people look for safety and for comfort. It cannot be right that people are treated like that. The government is facing litigation due to the negligence of government employees. Something needs to be done. The provincial commissioner needs to investigate so that the family can find closure. Probably, if the police had promptly, the situation would never have degenerated to the point it is now. It is bad and embarrassing to our government. It should not have happened,” said Mabuyane.
On Tuesday, outraged residents of Mlungisi gathered outside the police station after rumours had emerged that a suspect had confessed to the murder. Fearing for his safety, the suspect went to the police station. The angry crowd barricaded the street with stones and rubble and burned tyres, demanding that police either arrest or release the suspect so they could ‘take care of the situation’.
Community Sector A crime forum deputy chairperson, Dalubuhle Gegana, said community members were not satisfied with the way the matter was handled. “Police officials in Mlungisi have a tendency to think the station is an office. The station is a community service centre and we are allowed to come at any time to report. I have a right to also ask for a service book. We do not even know the number of vehicles in this station and the phones do not make any outgoing calls. This station lacks the resources to accommodate the entire Mlungisi location and this police station is failing us.”
Chaos erupted outside the police station on Tuesday when police fired stun-grenades to disperse the crowd.
Komani police spokesperson captain Namhla Mdleleni said the police were investigating a case of malicious damage to property. “It is alleged that the community of Mlungisi gathered in front of the police station, accusing a community member of killing a three-year-old boy. They damaged two police vehicles.” Mdleleni said a case was opened, but no arrests had been made.
Another group of community members barricaded the road and burned a tyre outside the suspect’s home in Victoria Park where they demanded that his family release him. Police were immediately called to the scene.
An angry resident said: “We want him and his mother to leave Komani because they are the same blood.”
Referring to the police, one protester shouted: “They can shoot us, for a three-year-old child?
We will be arrested for a good reason. The mother of the child is in hospital. We want him (the suspect) to feel the pain the child felt. He raped the boy and then assaulted him.”
“We want him brought to us so we can make a plan, we don’t want him arrested. We don’t want him sentenced because he will be back on the streets. How do they wait 24 hours to look for a three-year-old child? According to information we received, he confessed to the incident (the attack on the three-year-old). He reportedly told the police he did it and apologised and said he had been smoking drugs.”
Mdleleni said a case of murder was opened and urged the community to come forward with information that could lead to the arrest of the suspect. Anyone with information can contact Lt Colonel Bulelwa Lembese at 082-441 8178 or toll free 086 001 0111.