South Africa: Family of Man Shot By Police in Philippi Say They Waited Five Hours for an Ambulance

Mhlangabezi Skeyi was shot while trying to connect electricity illegaly

  • The family of Mhlangabezi Skeyi, shot dead by police on 10 May, say they waited five hours for an ambulance.
  • Skeyi was one of six men trying to connect electricity illegally. The others managed to flee when police were called.
  • His family say they were not allowed by police to approach him while he lay dying.
  • The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is probing the death.

The family of a man shot while trying to connect electricity to his shack in Cape Town say they had to wait five hours for an ambulance and were not allowed by police to approach him as he lay dying.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate is probing the death of Mhlangabezi Skeyi from Ramaphosa informal settlement in Philippi, who was shot on 10 May.

Skeyi and five others were trying to fix their illegal electricity connection at an electricity box when Skeyi was shot by police, according to witnesses.

When the police arrived, the other men ran away but Skeyi was shot.

Skeyi's brother Fezile told GroundUp: "My brother and five other men had gone just outside the informal settlement to connect electricity when the police approached them. They all ran and police chased after them and they managed to catch my brother. The police shot him dead, which we don't understand because if police had suspected him of wrongdoing they were supposed to have arrested him."

He said police had not called an ambulance and had prevented family members from approaching Skeyi. "He was lying there, breathing and should an ambulance have been called he would not have died," said Fezile Skeyi. The family tried to call an ambulance but were told they would have to go to the police station, because ambulances in Philippi are escorted by the police, and they would have to accompany the ambulance to the area. The ambulance came five hours later, Fezile Skeyi said.

Meanwhile family members claim police officers prevented them from approaching Skeyi. "I don't understand why we were not allowed to see him," said his wife Misokuhle Skeyi. She said she had tried numerous times to go to him but police had prevented her and threatened her.

Residents of neighbouring Hazeldene say illegal connections made by residents of Ramaphosa cause their electricity to trip many times a day.

One man who was part of the group connecting the electricity that night and who did not want to provide his name, told GroundUp: "One of the Hazeldene residents had called the police on us, and when we saw them we ran. But the deceased was not so lucky, the police caught him. We just don't understand why they shot and killed him."

SAPS spokesperson Wesley Twigg confirmed the shooting but could not comment further because of the IPID probe. IPID is a watchdog investigating police actions.

Nyanga Community Policing Forum secretary Dumisani Qwebe told City Vision that Skeyi had taken took out a gun and tried to shoot the police. The gun had jammed and the police had shot in self-defence, he said.

But Fezile Skeyi told GroundUp that when the family saw his brother's body they found he had been shot in the back. He said when the family confronted the police they were told Skeyi had been armed with a gun. "That's false information," said Fezile Skeyi.

He said since the incident the family has been kept in the dark and not been told exactly what happened.

"The behaviour of the police in question is mind blowing," said Misokuhle Skeyi. "We even struggled to find him at the mortuary because he was registered as an unknown." She said the family had to do a DNA test to prove that Mhlangabezi was their relative.

IPID spokesperson Robbie Raburabu confirmed that the matter was being investigated and said he could not comment at this stage. Progress updates could only be shared with a designated family member, said Raburabu.

Asked why the family had not been contacted about the progress of the investigation, Raburabu said family members were always asked to nominate one member to liaise with the investigator. He said he would follow up with the investigating officer.

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