[OPINION] I will only be silenced when my last breath escapes me
Twenty-one-year-old Kelvin Baloyi was killed at private student accommodation in early November. His friend Magnificent Mndebele gives his account of interactions with police since then.
Before confiscating my equipment, crime intelligence officers told me that since the release of Wits student leader Mcebo Dlamini on bail, the photographs I took of Kelvin’s murder perpetuate violence associated with the FeesMustFall campaign.
Apparently, it appears that the officers were instructed to use maximum force when facing any resistance.
After Africa Housing Company (AFHCO) released a statement that they do not know the person who shot Kelvin at The Yards residence which they manage, I was dubious and had to investigate further to verify such claims.
On Thursday morning last week, I planned to publish my investigative article which would have proven the claims otherwise. But before that was possible, the police confiscated my laptop and cellphone which contained all the information I had gathered, including confession interviews.
Then the police raided my room, ordering that I delete everything that I had, which is in line with the horrendous incident that left The Yards tenants questioning their safety.
Instead of acknowledging the risk I took to capture the incident, they treat me like a criminal.
It is imperative to highlight that crime intelligence confiscated my equipment without a warrant and they locked my equipment in a storeroom when I went to the police station.
I took a representative with me, while they wanted me to come to the police station alone so that we would have a “friendly and gentlemanly” conversation with regards to the permanent deletion of my photographs of the shooting incident.
An Officer Mabuza said I shouldn’t have given any media publication the photographs, but when I asked whether I had committed any crime, he became angry. Instead of doing their work to find the perpetrator, they raid my room and tell me that I have defeated the ends of justice.
I now question my safety because Mabuza plainly told me that their “big bosses” want me and I am being watched.
Now I live in hiding – no one knows where I am in the meantime because the person who shot Kelvin has not yet been found, which could mean I am being followed and the police bosses are watching me.
Again, it raises questions for me that on the day when I was supposed to publish my investigative story – of which AFHCO was fully aware – that the police confiscated everything I had gathered.
How can I now trust the housing company? They have unlimited access to the building - anyone could come just like the police did. How do I trust AFHCO if someone whom they claim not to know had access to the building? He could come back for me.
How do I trust lawless policemen who confiscated my equipment without any warrant?
On Tuesday last week, a girl whom I cannot name and who is very close to me was told that she should tell me to stop investigating AFHCO or else they would use her to preempt my investigation - and another random girl went to her to request her contact details. Then on Thursday the police said I was being watched.
When I told the police that my laptop had my school work on they did not care. I asked why they did not just take the pictures and return my laptop, but they gave me no decisive answer. This Saturday I am meant to write an Applied Journalism exam, but because we use laptops and tablets to study, I can’t do so as the police, purposefully or mistakenly, think my equipment has some information about the person they are looking for.
I vow to continue with investigative journalism as a weapon to uncover the truth. My eyes are my CCTV and my pen will cause armed men to fear me. I will only be silenced when my last breath escapes me.