Times of Swaziland
17 May 2011
Cops shoot man dead in dagga fields
LOMAHASHA – The Royal Swaziland Police are being accused of shooting dead a suspect and ‘planting’ a bullet in his underwear.
The family of Mathende Matfonsi accuse the police of cold-blooded murder that allegedly took place inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique.
Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane was recently shot dead by soldiers at night.
Matfonsi had a field of dagga inside the forest and he had gone to tend to his plants when he was shot dead by the police.
The police had received a tip off that Matfonsi was in the dagga fields.
The widow, Anna Matfonsi believes the police are getting away with murder in the killing of her husband during a dagga raid.
The family claims that when he was shot there were no other witnesses except for the police, and the remoteness of the fields gave the police the time to do whatever it is that they wanted to do.
"On the day he was shot dead, he left home at 4am and headed straight to his dagga fields, alone. Just before 7am we saw a police van approach the fields and we ran to the fields to warn him. However, we were late because as we approached two gun shots were heard. I never saw my husband alive again," said Matfonsi.
After the firing of the shots, she returned home without seeing what had happened.
From 7am her husband was in the dagga field dead up until 1pm as two more police vans arrived in quick succession.
"Our family is not far from the fields so we could see what was happening. From the time of the shooting, the police vans drove in and out of the bushes: suddenly the remote bushes were alive with activity. For four hours from the time of the shooting no police officer came to inform us about what had happened. Nor did they come to raid the homestead in search of more dagga or guns if they believed that the poor man they had just shot dead could own a gun or even more bullets at the first place," she added.
Matfonsi believes the police created the scene to cover for what Lomahasha residents believe was cold-blooded murder.
Residents found Matfonsi lying in a pool of blood inside the dagga field, on his side was the firearm, commonly referred to as luhlwayi, that his wife and brothers claim never to have seen before.
The police told residents that Matfonsi shot at them thus they shot back.
Matfonsi said the police then did a thorough body search in front of residents that had gathered at the scene. They even searched around his genital area where they found a bullet and his mobile phone.
"They (police) said my husband had a bullet kept inside his underwear. This they claim was similar to the bullet that was in the gun. We may be poor people but we are not stupid. Are we supposed to believe that he would put his hand inside his underwear to search for a bullet around his genitals, find it then load it into the gun as they claim he was shooting at them? And mind you, they say the bullet was together with his mobile phone. How could one keep a bullet in his underwear when it is so small, together with a mobile phone?
"I have 10 children with this man. I knew him in and out, so to speak. I knew what he did for a living; he kept no secrets from me.
He never had a gun in his life, let alone know how to use it. Someone in the police force has a very fertile imagination to have thought out the whole thing," said Matfonsi staring at the ground.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Wendy Hleta said the police received information that there was dagga being grown in the area.
Matfonsi (the deceased) is believed to have also had information that the police were coming to his dagga field.
"He pretended to be working around the dagga fields when the police arrived in his field.
"When he was ordered to stop whatever he was doing he simply bent to the ground to pick something up. That something was the firearm, which had a bullet in the chamber. He was just not quick enough to fire," said Hleta.
Hleta further said the police have opened investigations into how Matfonsi was killed.
"In such circumstances we investigate whether the incident happened within the confines of the law," said Hleta.
Cousin allegedly handcuffed, beat up by cops at scene
LOMAHASHA - The police allegedly handcuffed and beat up the first person to arrive at the scene – four hours after the shooting incident.
Mduduzi Masilela, a cousin to the deceased, went to the dagga field after the family felt they could not take the uncertainty anymore.
Masilela took his dogs and went down the mountain to see what had happened to his relative; however, little did he know a thorough beating awaited him.
"I found myself surrounded by armed police officers who had their guns pointed at me. They asked me who the owner of the dagga was. They also asked me what I was doing in the forest. I said I was looking for cattle; I had to lie, seeing that they were in a mean mood. They then handcuffed me, started beating me up with fists, claps and kicked me all over the body." said Masilela. During his estimated 10-minute assault, Masilela did not see the dead Matfonsi.
The family does not hide the fact that they grew dagga.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Wendy Hleta said they would investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.