President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday expressed his ‘deep regret’ at the death of Collins Khosa, nearly two months after the Alexandra resident died, having allegedly being kicked and beaten by soldiers and police on lockdown patrol.

Ramaphosa’s comments came as the African National Congress (ANC) launched an anti-racism campaign inspired by the worldwide protests over the death of American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

South Africans have been pointing out that while the ANC lost no time in joining the international chorus of outrage at the fate of Floyd, Khosa’s death, or other South Africans who had died at the hands of security forces, had not attracted any similar expressions of outrage and protest.

Last evening, however, Ramaphosa said: ‘The death of Collins Khosa and 10 other South Africans, reportedly at the hands of our security forces during Covid-19, is something that deeply regret. I regret it because as we introduced the lockdown I specifically spoke to our security forces and said that they must go out with love in their hearts and must not treat fellow South Africans as the enemy. Unfortunately, to my deepest regret, a number of compatriots have lost their lives.’

The president was speaking during the online launch of the anti-racism campaign by the ANC and its alliance partners.

He promised that the death of Khosa and the 10 other South Africans would be fully investigated.

‘We will spare no effort in ensuring those responsible will face the full might of the law,’ he said.

IOL reported that witnesses claimed they had recorded the attack on Khosa, but were forced to delete the footage by soldiers and Metro police at the scene. It is alleged that 40-year-old Khosa was kicked and beaten by several officers, and died later. The report said seven South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members and six Metro police officers were implicated in the incident.

Earlier yesterday, it emerged that Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s statement this week that the SANDF inquiry into Khosa’s death was not complete was wrong. The SANDF said the findings of a court-ordered internal board investigation into Khosa’s death – which exonerated the soldiers – was final but that a criminal investigation was still under way.

News24 reported that a day after lawyers wrote to the state attorney to raise concerns about ‘contradictory statements’ Mapisa-Nqakula made about an army investigation into Khosa’s death, her ministry admitted that she got it wrong.

IOL reported that the Military Ombud was also expected to conduct an investigation, which the SANDF anticipated would be concluded in eight weeks.

One South Africa movement – and former Democratic Alliance – leader Mmusi Maimane yesterday lost his bid to urgently access the Constitutional Court to argue against the reopening of schools.

The court said in an order that Maimane had not made out a case for requiring direct access to the highest court at this stage.

News24 reported that there was renewed concern about schools reopening, with unions saying they were worried about schools not being ready. The reopening of schools was postponed for a week on Monday 1 June, when most schools in the Western Cape resumed classes.

Positive cases rose to 43 434 (with 23 088 recoveries), and 60 more deaths took the toll to 908. 

In other virus-related news

  • Britain’s coronavirus deaths exceeded 40 000, the second country to surpass this figure after the United States (US);
  • AFP reported that the US recorded 1 021 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, bringing total deaths 108 120. The US has more than 1.87 million confirmed cases. The US is by far the country worst-hit by the pandemic, both in total number of cases and death toll;
  • Brazil’s death toll surpassed Italy’s to become the third-highest in the world. Brazil reported a new 24-hour record toll, bringing the total number to more than 34 000;
  • Researchers quoted in the European Heart Journal said patients with high blood pressure admitted to hospital with coronavirus infections were twice as likely to die as those without the condition; and
  • The Financial Times reported that the US economy showed an unexpected 2.5 million gain in jobs in May, lowering the unemployment rate to 13.3%. The report said that, after more than 20 million lay-offs during April, some of the hardest-hit industries began hiring workers again, including in leisure and hospitality, construction, education and healthcare, and retailing.

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