Press Release Khosa judgement: A demand for SANDF accountability

 In C19PC Statements

Press Release Khosa judgement: A demand for SANDF accountability


The C-19 People’s Coalition is deeply concerned by the report of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Board of Inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Mr Collins Khosa. The report was submitted to the High Court on Tuesday, 26 May.

Mr Khosa is but one of the people who lost his life due to unlawful and excessive use of force. He was accused of breaking lockdown regulations when in fact, he was not. He was brutally assaulted at his home in Alexandra. According to his family and witnesses, he had beer poured over his head and body, his hands held behind his back, he was chocked, kicked, punched, slammed against a cement wall, smashed against a steel gate and hit with the butt of a machine gun.

The SANDF members responsible for Mr Khosa’s death must be held accountable as a matter of justice, to prevent a repetition of these abuses and to restore trust in the security forces. Other members of the security forces including SAPS, Metro Police and private security, who have broken the law in a similar fashion must also be brought to book. Without this, the family are left to bear the incalculable cost of losing a loved one in such a brutal manner. The public will be forced to bear the cost of the trauma inflicted by the security services who are a law unto themselves. But worst of all is the irreparable harm of impunity to the social contract and social fabric of our society. A lack of accountability destroys the trust needed to emerge out of this crisis together.

Mr Khosa’s killing has left behind his three children, wife (who was also assaulted) and his family. Neighbours who witnessed and filmed the incident reported that their equipment was confiscated and the footage deleted. They too were assaulted.

The SANDF Board of Inquiry’s report has exonerated the SANDF finding that there was no connection between the soldiers actions and Mr Khosa’s death. The C-19 People’s Coalition rejects this deplorable attempt by the SANDF to shift blame and charge the late Mr Khosa for his own death. The report found that the only force used was ‘pushing and clapping’ [para 10] and rejects the possibility that there was any connection between Mr Khosa’s death and the actions of the SANDF members involved. It is disturbing that the SANDF Board of Inquiry failed to speak to key witnesses and other family victims and chose to submit to the Court a report that lacks any objectivity.

It is alarming that the Chief of SANDF Joint Operations, Lt Gen Mphwanya allowed this report to be submitted to a Court in the name of the SANDF. It shows that a closing of ranks is endorsed at the highest level of the SANDF.  This report is an insult to the Khosa family and to all South Africans and deserves to be dismissed with contempt. If this is what has happened in such a high-profile case, the integrity of investigations in other cases of abuse, involving the SAPS, metro police, and private security is also jeopardised.

We reject these findings and call for an urgent, independent and transparent investigation. The family has a right, in terms of international law, to an investigation that is prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent.

The Khosa judgement on 15 May 2020, which found in favour of the family, stands as an effort to repair the relationship between the SANDF and the Khosa family and the security forces. The judgement laid bare what civil society recognised within the first two weeks of the lockdown: an environment ripe for repressive abuse was created by the lack of clarity in the regulations, securitisation without adequate social support, a hawkish SAPS leadership, and oversight bodies in systemic failure.

On 7 April, the C-19 Peoples Coalition called for public and consistent repudiation of the unlawful use of force by the President and the Ministers of Defence and Police; their engagement with civil society and community-based organisations for a collaborative and effective health-focused approach to the lockdown; and a strengthening of oversight mechanisms. These have not been forthcoming. The C-19 People’s Coalition called for an urgent shift in approach out of fear that large-scale abuses could occur without these critical interventions.

We have witnessed heavy-handed enforcement across the country, and a particular harshness against some of the poorest and marginalised members of our society. Over 240,000 people have been criminalised, many beaten, and at least 10 people killed. These abuses illustrate the long-held affinity for the excessive use of force by the police as well as the long-term problems in the training, supervision and deployment of armed police forces.

The abuses inflicted on members of the public are a clear violation of the rights to dignity, life, and the right to freedom torture and treatment and punishment that is cruel, inhuman or degrading, as enshrined in the Constitution. The abuses also reflect a toxic patriarchal posture manifested by an overly securitised and militarised approach to administering the lockdown regulations and directives. A reminder: These restrictions have been issued as humanitarian response to a global pandemic, supposed to keep people safer, not expose them to further violence.

It is of utmost importance that we keep a civic record of abuses and repression by all security forces under the regulations, so that we can prevent growing authoritarianism in our country and hold institutions accountable for the violation of our people. To this end, we have established a website for reporting all abuses by security forces, and encourage all people to report any incidents they have experienced:


For further media comment, contact representatives of the Anti-Repression working group of the C19 People’s Coalition:

Thato Masiangoako 0781072083 or

Kelly Gillespie 0822943402 or

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