Home South African Police bungle blamed for family’s two-year search and heartache over missing son

Police bungle blamed for family’s two-year search and heartache over missing son

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Family have been through the first harrowing ordeal of locating their son, but the procedure to exhume his body is proving just as unbearable

File picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

MEMBERS of a distraught Kagiso, Mogale City, family are upset that they have to suffer another undetermined waiting period before the body of their missing son, who was buried as a pauper, can be released to them for a proper burial.

When he died in 2018, apparently from a suicide, Aubrey Wanda Mothubakgang, then 22, had personal details on him – his ID, home address and next of kin.

But thanks to apparent police bungling in the simple matter of entering these details on the database, Mothubakgang remained “missing” for two years – from May 2018 until the local police contacted the family on May 29 this year with the news of his death, and subsequent burial.

All the police officer handling this suicide needed to do was to enter this occurrence on the system, not leave it languishing in a file, says the young man’s brother, Reginald Mothubakgang.

“Our aunt is a police captain in Diepsloot,” added a fuming Reginald, “she could easily have picked up that my brother had died, and we’d have claimed his body in good time and given him a decent burial.”

Each time the aunt went online into the police database, all she could find was a case of theft Aubrey had opened with the police after he was robbed; no details of him as an “unidentified deceased” in police custody.

Now the family have to endure yet another wait as funeral undertakers Avbob begin the procedure to exhume the body.

In e-mail correspondence with Reginald, the undertakers said this week: “We received the Health Permit. Now we are sending to Cogta to obtain their permit as well. Will follow up with them tomorrow to get info of when it will be ready.”

According to mother of five Rachel Mothubakgang, Aubrey was her last-born child. “He went off to Duncan Village in East London to see his father in February 2018. We were notified that he was missing in May of that year, two months later,” she says.

And thus began the harrowing journey of looking for the missing young man, including following up on almost every reported sighting.

His two elder sisters, Nkele and Violet, were in and out of East London, racking up a huge hotel bill in their search for their missing brother, all to no avail.

The grieving mother says her son suffered depression.

All she has ever done since has been to hope that her son will return unharmed, until last month when the local police came to inform the family their child was buried in November 2018.

Unbeknown to her, her son was just another statistic – body number 473/2018, ostensibly an unknown male.

“He had returned from the Eastern Cape,” says the mother, visibly upset. “Why were the internal police processes not followed with my child?”

Details of how he was found hanging from a tree were lodged in a manual file by the police officer concerned, “and he never bothered to computerise this incident”.

Had this been done, which is apparently procedural, the family would have been saved a lot of anguish and waiting, the older brother says.

“There are three buried in one grave,” the family chorus in lament but it is her nurturing nature that moves the mother to ponder: “Whose children are the other two? They are also being searched for by their families who do not know.”

The Mothubakgangs, of Extension14 in Kagiso, have been through the first harrowing ordeal of locating their son, but the exhumation procedure is proving just as unbearable.

Reginald has knocked on doors to try to speed up the process of taking delivery of the body.

The Krugersdorp police came to offer their condolences and apologise for the alleged ineptitude of one of their own: “They brought us a bouquet of flowers.”

By way of assisting the family, the police seem dismal, at best. One of the latest e-mails to Reginald reads: “Further progress report. The investigation officer has contacted the grave manager. As soon as the arrangements are done with the court and Environmental Health, he will be ready for assistance and further indicate that all coffins are marked for burial.

“Colonel Maphanga will provide you further progress tomorrow as I am not at work tomorrow reporting back on Friday busy with assessments.”

Colonel D Maphanga is not an easy man to get hold of, as the Mothubakgang family have come to realise.

The closest they have come to Maphanga is through e-mail, which they say is never responded to.

The DFA’s sister newspaper the Sunday Independent has seen the correspondence with Colonel Maphanga, with not one response from his side.

Reginald said in an e-mail to the police last week: “The social worker who came through with the chaplain said she will come once this is over, unfortunately my mother is taking strain due to the length of the process. We are now heading into the third week. Please arrange for the social worker to come soon.”

No such help has been forthcoming.

Attempts to get hold of Colonel Noxolo Kweza, who was designated the task of shedding light on the matter, drew a blank.

All that the family can do is wait … some more.