The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has reportedly still not returned to Ravensmead, Cape Town, to conduct interviews with key witnesses who allegedly saw the police assault on Petrus Miggels.
Miggels was assaulted on the first day of the national lockdown he died shortly after the assault, allegedly due to a heart attack.
There has been a month-long no-show by the police watchdog after publicly recommitting to the investigation before Parliament on 8 May.
The Miggels family told Viewfinder that they are holding the police accountable but they’re losing hope that the IPID will investigate the officers that are guilty of using excessive force on Miggels before his death.
On 27 March, the first day of the national Covid-19 lockdown, Miggels was stopped by two police officers after he bought beer which put him in contravention of lockdown regulations. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Viewfinder in April, he was hit, snatched off the street, and driven away in a police vehicle.
When he returned home later that day, a visibly shaken Miggels told his family that he had been assaulted. He then collapsed and died on the front porch.
At the start of the investigation, IPID used an autopsy finding that Miggels had died of heart failure or “natural causes” as the basis for closing the case. When questioned, IPID indicated that it did not have any evidence that Miggels had been assaulted.
However, after a Viewfinder investigation exposed some discrepancies in IPID’s reasoning and its account, the directorate’s head of investigations, Thuso Keefelakae, told Parliament on 8 May that an investigation of the police assault on Miggels was ongoing.
A week and a half after recommitting to the investigation, IPID’s investigator on the case called the family to a meeting at its Western Cape office in Bellville, Cape Town. Valene Meintjies, Miggels’ step-daughter, told Viewfinder, the investigator said the autopsy report had not revealed signs of an assault on Miggels’ body.
Meintjies explained her experience to Viewfinder, saying the investigator was belligerent and threatening. The intimidating tone of the meeting made it gruelling for Meintjies and her mother Cecilia to ask questions about the investigation, she said.
The investigator reportedly told Meintjies that she would follow up with eyewitnesses. Meintjies offered to help set up a meeting between the investigator and a witness (one of the witnesses interviewed by Viewfinder in April). However, the investigator never followed up, she says.
No Progress on Investigation
Meintjies told Viewfinder that she messaged the investigator with the details of an eyewitness to the assault and with the details for a boy who spoke to Miggels in the last moments before his death.
The investigator responded: “Good evening. Thank you will [let] you know when I’m working again that side.”
Meintjies interpreted the messages as meaning the investigator was not prioritising the investigation and would only follow-up with witnesses when she by chance would be in the area again for other work.
The identity of one of the police officers who reportedly assaulted Miggels is known by at least one eyewitness, says Meintjies.
“We wonder – if the name of the police officer is known, then has IPID interviewed him at least? The officer apparently admitted that he had hit Pietman [Miggels], but said that he did not kill him.”
Viewfinder asked IPID spokesperson Ndileka Cola for a detailed update on what steps have been taken in the investigation since Keefelakae made his commitment to Parliament on 8 May.
Viewfinder also asked whether IPID’s investigator had returned to Ravensmead, and whether she had conducted interviews with witnesses and the alleged perpetrators of the assault on Miggels.
Obtaining statements from identified witnesses and alleged perpetrators are not optional but are a strict requirement of IPID’s Standard Operating Procedures.
Cola’s response did not address these questions directly, simply saying: “IPID can confirm that this matter is still under investigation and all necessary steps are being taken to ensure the investigation is finalised. IPID cannot reveal each and every step it takes to investigate matters within its mandate to any third party.”
IPID is not required to provide investigation updates to third parties. Its regulations do however stipulate that its investigators must give written progress reports to complainants “at least once per calendar month”.
However, it is two and a half months after Miggels’ death, his family has not yet received any sort of written progress reports from IPID says Meintjies.