On Saturday, the 23rd of January, 2016, the Nigerian media went berserk with the viral news that a Nigerian in the custody of the South African police was allegedly suffocated to death over illegal drug possession.
The incident which happened at Kempton park raises questions in the angle of xenophobia and corruption. Reports have it that the west Africans, particularly Nigerians residing in Gauteng Province of South Africa who protested against the development were also harassed.
In a statement given to the media, South African police claimed the dead victim, identified as Timothy Chinedu died “swallowing the drugs” but the protesters strongly refute it, insisting that the statement was false and Timothy had died from suffocation.
Reports gathered from an eye-witness says that the victim
“was caught with weed (ganja) and was asked to enter their car and he was handcuffed and they were telling him to pay them R2000 and he said he has only R1000 and they put a plastic (bag) on his head with the handcuff on him and he suffocated. All we could hear the next minute was that he was dead, they were trying to send him to a hospital to fake what happened and that’s where everything started”
He continued by saying that “when the whole of west Africans (who were present) protested they began shooting rubber bullet against us”. Looking at this issue from an objective point of view, we cannot exempt some percentage of xenophobia and corruption both displayed either jointly or independently.
If we walk down memory lane, the South African Xenophobic attacks in the early part of 2015 raised concerns about the security of the migrants in the country – some lives were lost but most properties were destroyed. With that alone it is blatantly evident that migrants in South Africa need to watch their back.
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In all fairness, illegal drug dealings does not favor any country; by all ramification, the victim Timothy was possibly guilty of being in possession of the drugs, thus being apprehended by the police was in line but what was not was their bid to negotiate with the victim and worse even covering his face with a plastic bag.
Whatever happened in that car no one might ever really know, but if the negotiation and torture part did not come in, there would have been lesser reasons to doubt the testament of the South African police.
Do we believe that 34-year-old Timothy died of natural causes or is this another extra-judicial killing by the South African Police?
Premium Times says “the case has been handed over to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) that investigates police misconduct in South Africa” and an autopsy have been scheduled. Several other concerned Nigerian organizations and the federal government have been alerted as well to step into the matter.