South Africa: Police Stood By While Two Men Were Killed, Says Witness
Malawians in Lingelethu township in Malmesbury, Western Cape, are accusing police of turning a blind eye when two Malawian men were murdered by a crowd in October 2022. According to a witness, the police were a few metres from the scene when the men were beaten and they failed to intervene.
At least four people are expected to appear at the Malmesbury Magistrates Court on 27 March to face charges related to the murders of Samson Chifumbi, 45, and Louis Kambewa, 41. The men died as a result of severe injuries on 31 October after being stoned and brutally assaulted by a crowd. GroundUp has not been able to get more information about the deceased men.
Asked about the allegation that police had not intervened when the men were attacked, Western Cape police spokesperson FC Van Wyk only said, “The matter you are referring to is still under police investigation, and there are no new developments to report at this stage.”
It is believed that Chifumbi and Kambewa were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. An eyewitness told GroundUp that the girl had described her attackers as being four Malawian men. Her mother was then accompanied by a group of community members who confronted Chifumbi and Kambewa as well as two other men. The other two men managed to get away.
Resident Henderson Namaliya Banda claims to have witnessed the murders. He said, “Samson died on the scene while Louis was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The community leaders of Lingelethu did not help us. It happened so fast. The ward councillor even appealed to the crowd to stop taking the law into their own hands but to no avail.”
A source in the community said that they had alerted the police.
“When there are many people, it is difficult to control the situation, so I left the scene. Later I heard that the men had been killed. I did my part by notifying police to do their job, but they did not do so. They are also part of the blame.”
Chairperson of the Malawian Community in Malmesbury, Rice Mapila, supported by hundreds of the members of the community, is now demanding justice for the murders.
According to Mapila, most of the Malawians living in Lingelethu rely on seasonal work on farms, domestic work, or piece jobs. He said when news of the incident spread through the community, they contacted former ward 9 Councillor Bulelani Penxa to intervene. Penxa is the ANC Chief Whip in the Swartland region.
Penxa told GroundUp that he had been informed about the killing and immediately went to Lingelethu to see what was happening. “We tried to talk to the police [who were in the area] to find out if they knew about the incident.
“When we arrived, we found a lot of people beating the men. They told me the men had defiled a coloured girl. I asked if they had any proof. But by then the police officers near the scene had told me that they were not coming closer because people were throwing stones at them,” he said.
Penxa said he then received a call from a detective at Lingelethu West Police Station, who were busy investigating, and who said there was no evidence that the child had been raped.
“I tried to reason with people after the phone call but nobody believed me.”
Penxa said a few days after the murders, he convened a meeting where it was agreed that each house should contribute R20 towards the repatriation of the bodies. “We are condemning any acts of mob justice. People were killed and it was later discovered they did nothing wrong. We can’t be the police and judges at the same time.”
Mapila said the money raised from the meeting had not been enough to repatriate the bodies of the two men. “We were looking for R60,000, but they only managed to raise R14,100. We had to source the remaining amount from other well-wishers to send the bodies for proper burial in their home districts of Ntcheu and Blantyre,” he said.
Ward councillor Mkhuluzi Ngozi said, “We are living in peace with foreigners, and we don’t have problems with them. That incident happened by mistake. That is why our community contributed money to repatriate the bodies. As a councillor, I treat everyone equally and anyone with a problem can come to me for help.”