A construction worker Mbulelo Dlingca, 28, was walking home with his colleague when a stray bullet, allegedly fired by a police officer, struck him in the neck.
He screamed to his friend, Steven Nobela, for help as he gasped for air while lying on the ground. A few seconds later, Dlingca took his last breath, as officers in civilian clothing passed his body, chasing after the thugs who had opened fire on them earlier.
Shock and fear covered Nobela’s face as he watched the body of his friend, who he had been chatting with a few minutes prior to the shooting that cost Dlinca his life.
This scene played itself out on Tuesday last week, near Ellis Park Stadium in Joburg. Dlingca, a breadwinner for his family, died a brutal death, leaving his siblings in limbo as they cannot afford to give him a dignified funeral.
His family and Nobela are adamant that the bullet that killed Dlingca came from the gun of one of the Joburg metro police department (JMPD) officers. An official report is yet to be made available on the matter.
JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar confirmed that JMPD officers were at the scene of the incident and SAPS members were also part of the shoot-out against the armed suspects.
“When the officers spotted a grey Toyota, the suspects started shooting at officers and officers returned fire, injuring three suspects; one suspect managed to escape,” he said.
Minnaar said two bystanders were hit in crossfire, and that one of them died at the scene, while the other was taken to hospital.
“One suspect was found in possession of an illegal firearm. The injured suspects were taken to hospital under police guard. The incident is being investigated by SAPS and also by the Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate),” he said.
Ipid spokesperson Sontaga Seisa could not be reached for comment, as his cellphone rang unanswered.
The investigations have offered cold comfort to the friends and family of the deceased.
Nobela is still traumatised by the shooting. He said Dlingca was shot in the neck.
“We work for a company in Jeppestown and we normally walk there, since we stay in Bertrams. On Tuesday, on our way home, we walked past the swimming pools. We suddenly saw cars driving at high speed and there were gunshots. It looked like the police were chasing criminals, and we had to take cover,” he said.
Nobela said the officers who were firing were not dressed in uniform, making it difficult to distinguish them from the robbers.
“Their cars were also not branded, but they had sirens. A few of them had JMPD bulletproof vests, while the others were in casual clothes.
“There was another person on the scene as well and he and I managed to lie down. My friend was still looking for cover, I think. He was wearing a reflector and a hard hat, showing that we were from work. The criminals got out of their car and ran behind us. We were then facing the police, which is where the bullet came from.”
The deceased’s sister, Nontombi Dlingca, said the family was distressed, with no financial plan for the funeral.
“We need to bury my brother, but there is no money. I am not working, he was the only one who was working. It’s difficult because the law enforcement agencies are not saying anything about my brother’s burial. We only had two police officers who came to convey their condolences. Things are definitely going to be tough for our family moving forward, also considering that he had two kids,” she said.
Ward 64 councillor Matsemela Phineas Madisha assured the family that the government would step in.
“I have engaged the mayor on the matter and he told me that the family can visit the mortuary today to sort out logistics and other stuff. We have to note that raising funds for this funeral might be difficult because of Covid-19, but we will not abandon the family,” he said.