Death of black in police custody prompts inquiry

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Some six weeks after the international outcry over the police shooting of 19 blacks at Uitenhage, the South African police have become involved in another incident in which an individual in police custody has died. Police have announced an immediate departmental inquiry into the death of Andries Raditsela, a senior shop steward in the Chemical Workers Industrial Union.

According to a trade union spokesman police detained Mr. Raditsela last Saturday in the township of Ishakane, near Johannesburg. Police allegedly demanded to see the papers for a rental car Mr. Raditsela was about to drive saying they believed the vehicle was stolen.

While Raditsela was showing the papers, a policeman is alleged to have hit him in the face. Police then took him towards an armoured police vehicle. On the way he fell. The union says he was apparently tripped by a policeman and threatened with a weapon. He was then bundled into the police vehicle.

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Raditsela was apparently detained under South Africa's strict security laws which allow people to be held without being charged.

Raditsela's mother says she traced her son to the township's administration offices. Police told her she could not see her son and that they were waiting for a vehicle that would take him to hospital.

On Sunday she went to the local police station and was told that her son was in the hospital, but they could not tell her which one. Later, she was told her son was seriously ill in a hospital near Johannesburg.

On Monday she was told that her son had died.

A post-mortem examination will be held later this week, at which the Raditsela family will be represented. Lawyers for the family are investigating possible charges against the police.

Government spokesmen have declined to comment on Mr. Raditsela's death except to confirm that he had been arrested and subsequently died.

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