Hawston community demands probe of 'poachers' death

Hawson community members say there was foul play in the ‘accidental’ death of an alleged poacher.

Angry Hawston residents set the Overberg Canine Unit and seven police cars alight on 3 November 2012. They are accusing the police of killing a young poacher. Picture: Carmel Loggenberg/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Hawston community members have called into question an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) report stating no foul play in the death of a young alleged poacher.

Steven Virgaji died after apparently drowning in the harbour in the fishing village, which is about 100 kilometres outside of Cape Town, last month.

The 19-year-old was buried on Saturday, after allegedly drowning while diving for units of perlemoen last week.

But community members believe he was attacked while police officers tried to get him out of the water. They also claim he was further assaulted in police cells.

Questions surrounding his death surfaced when he was laid to rest with bruises to his body.

Eyewitnesses who were with him at the time said he was alive when taken in by coastal management officials.

An independent investigation said it could find no police involvement in Virgaji's death.

Violence erupted in Hawston last week, when the Overberg Canine Unit was torched along with several police vehicles.

Angry community members set the unit and seven police cars alight, during violent clashes with police.

The canine unit was razed, with the only thing left behind being the four walls and a section of the roof.

Residents said the violence was triggered by Virgaji's death.

His aunt Genene Fisher said he was well when he left his home.

"That morning he left home at about 4:30am and he was as normal as any person could be, there were no bruises or marks in his face or on his body."

She said she suspects foul play.

"He was still alive. When the eyewitness helped Steven into the jet ski, he was still alive."