Inquest into the death of Solly Nengwane to commence early 2022

The inquest into the death of Solomon (Solly) Nengwane was today in the Magistrate’s Court in Brits placed on the roll for the week of 28 February 2022. This follows after the previous presiding officer in the matter died. Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, and adv. Phyllis Vorster, a prosecutor at the unit, appear on behalf of the Nengwane family in this inquest. The persons of interest are seven senior police officials in whose custody the victim died in 2006.

Only five of the seven appeared in court today, notwithstanding the fact that all of them were properly subpoenaed to be present today, and also failed to appear on a previous court date. (Three of the five persons were also over half an hour late for the proceedings.) Nel argued that the two absent persons (including Maj. Gen. Ntebo Jan Mabula and Col. Ishmail Dawood) technically had to be arrested, because their failure to appear constitutes a crime in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. However, Nel argued that the warrants for their arrest should be held over until March 2022 when the inquest commences.

The prosecutor of the National Prosecuting Authority is the evidence leader in this inquest. The legal representative of the persons of interest, however, argued that it seems that the Private Prosecution Unit is taking over the inquest. Nel answered in court that the Unit would do everything in their power to ensure that justice is done. The Private Prosecution Unit will also ensure that all the relevant witnesses are called to testify in this inquest, including Robert McBride and Gen. Johan Booysen. The legal representative of the persons of interest also brought an application earlier this year to the effect that Nel may not appear on behalf of the Nengwane-family, because Mabula is the police official who arrested Nel in 2008 during the prosecution of Jackie Selebi.

Nengwane’s family approached the Private Prosecution Unit for assistance because after 17 years no one has been held responsible for his death. Nengwane was one of five people who was arrested in 2006 and questioned by the police after millions of American dollar – and drugs – had been stolen from a Benoni police station. The seven people of interest in the judicial inquiry were part of the task team that investigated the case. The stolen money and drugs were never found, however, and according to media reports various witnesses in the case disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Nengwane died on 6 June 2006 after he was arrested by the persons if interest. The official version is that the police took Nengwane to the Dr George Mukhari Hospital, and that he had already died when they arrived at the hospital. The police left his body at the hospital.

“This case cannot continue to be delayed because persons who are warned to be at court simply fail to show up. Justice must be done for Nengwane’s family. That is why our involvement in this inquest is important – we cannot allow some people to be treated in a preferential manner by the criminal justice system simply because they are or were police officials,” says Wico Swanepoel, lawyer at the Private Prosecution Unit.

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