He runs down the quiet suburban street, two police vans in pursuit. A shot hits his arm and he falls to the ground, dropping his gun.
Another walks up to him and kicks him as he lies bleeding.
Then the police constable who has just shot him in the chest has a brief word with a colleague.
The constable repositions himself, stretches out his arms, takes aim and finishes him off. Blood runs onto the pavement.
It took no more than a few minutes for Khulekani Mpanza, a suspected criminal, to die on the pavement on Harvey Street in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
These horrifying scenes, which took place less than a kilometre from Lewisham Primary School a fortnight ago, were captured on CCTV footage in possession of the Sunday Times.
The footage again highlights the explosive relationship between cops and criminals in South Africa, where police are repeatedly accused of acting outside the law – and 58 policemen have been killed so far this year.
It was just after 2.30pm on Monday October 19 when police, acting on a tip-off about a planned robbery, were in the suburb of Lewisham, Krugerdorp, monitoring a suspicious Toyota Tazz.
Mpanza, 32, walked into Omega Paint and Hardware store in the area. He loitered near the door, cocked his gun and then, according to a witness, walked out and fired eight shots at police sitting in a van about 60m away.
“He was so close and he just kept firing at the police, who were hiding out in their car. Then he ran and police chased after him,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified.
A report on the incident in the local newspaper was innocuously headlined: “One dead as police return fire”.
Policing expert Dr Johan Burger described the CCTV footage as shocking and called for the immediate arrest of the policeman who shot Mpanza while he lay wounded on the ground.
“I simply could not believe the callousness … especially the one policeman. He went, and at very, very close range, shot and killed that man,” said Burger.
“The one word that went through my mind as I watched this was that this is an execution. It’s not even a murder, it’s absolute execution.”
Burger said he was even more disturbed that the constable’s colleagues did not seem to stop him or express “any emotion or shock” when he fired the fatal shots at a man lying on the ground.
“All of that, in my mind, is criminal,” he said.
The Sunday Times has established the identity of the policeman who is seen firing the two shots.
Currently on leave, the constable has been with the South African Police Service for four years.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) confirmed that it has opened a murder docket.
Said Burger: “It is clear that this suspect no longer posed a threat of serious violence to the arrester or any other person. The moment that qualification falls away, it means the use of deadly force must stop immediately.”
Burger said that in terms of police conduct regulations, the officers at the scene at Harvey Street appeared to be guilty of four infractions:
- Shooting a suspect who does not pose a threat of harm;
- Kicking and assaulting a suspect who does not pose a threat;
- Watching and not stopping their colleague from shooting a suspect who did not pose any danger; and
- Failing to offer medical assistance to the injured suspect.
Krugersdorp police spokesman Sergeant Tshepiso Mashale confirmed that none of the officers involved in the incident – one of whom is a sergeant – had been suspended as yet.
“Police management is aware of the incident and forwarded all the case information, including the CCTV footage, to Ipid. It is only after getting word from Ipid that we can take action against these members,” Mashale said.
Mpanza’s shocking death comes barely two months after the murder conviction of eight former policemen from Daveyton who dragged Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia behind a police van, resulting in his death.
Ipid spokesman Robbie Raburabu said Mpanza’s postmortem showed that he sustained three gunshot wounds, to his arm, head, and chest. “It’s very difficult to get witnesses in such cases. We were very lucky to get this footage,” he said.
Raburabu could not immediately confirm whether Mpanza had a criminal record or had been arrested previously. The police also could not confirm whether the four officers had any history of complaints.
Mpanza, a security guard with eight children who lived with a family member on the East Rand, was buried at his home in Nongoma in rural KwaZulu-Natal last Sunday.
His brother Mboniseni, who works in Johannesburg as a taxi driver, said the family had been pained to have to bury him not knowing what happened.
“All the police said was that he attempted to rob a shop and that they shot him,” he said.
On Friday, after watching the CCTV footage, he said: “We buried him not knowing the full story.”
He winced each time a shot was fired at his brother and struggled to contain his emotions. “This is my brother. Yes, they might say he is a criminal, but why did they not arrest him? Why kill a person by shooting repeatedly? The postmortem people said he died because he did not get any help, and you can see now that he is lying there and they are not doing anything to help him. They are just waiting for him to die.”
Mpanza is survived by his parents, three siblings and his eight children.