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Human rights commission steps in to probe Shoprite death, family prepares to sue retailer

Human rights commission steps in to probe Shoprite death, family prepares to sue retailer
Shoprite signage at Ratanda Mall. Bandile Tshabalala died in the Shoprite cold room. (Screengrab: Youtube)

Bandile Tshabalala, who was accused of stealing chocolate and subsequently held in a Shoprite cold room for several hours on Sunday, died of hypothermia. In a quest for justice, his family is looking at suing Shoprite as the human rights commission steps in.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has launched an investigation into the death of Bandile Tshabalala, who was accused of shoplifting and subsequently kept in a Shoprite cold room at Ratanda Mall in Heidelberg for several hours on Sunday.

The commission’s provincial leader, Zamantungwa Mbeki told Daily Maverick that although this had been a criminal matter, the commission would specifically look at the violation of human rights and possible flouting of processes either by businesses such as Shoprite or private security.

Bandile Tshabalala, Shoprite

Bandile Tshabalala died on Sunday 19 May 2024 after allegedly being locked in a cold room for about 11 hours, after he allegedly stole chocolate at a Shoprite Supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Supplied)

The 33-year-old’s tragic death sent shockwaves through the community of Ratanda in Heidelberg, some 70 kilometres away from Johannesburg. On Monday, a group of more than 100 residents took to the retailer’s door to demand answers and justice. This however backfired as private security, PPS, opened fire.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Man allegedly dies in Shoprite cold room – security fires rubber bullets at protesters and journalists

Following the incident, two security guards aged 20 and 25, have since been arrested and face charges of murder, common assault and kidnapping — according to police spokesperson, Colonel Noxolo Kweza.

The duo is expected to make a formal bail bid on 31 May 2024.

The Tshabalala family has since appointed Marweshe Attorneys to act on its behalf throughout the court proceedings.

Cause of death

A comprehensive pathology report on Tshabalala’s death is yet to be released, however, a post-mortem presented in court and to the family has already shown that the cause of death was consistent with hypothermia. This is a medical condition that occurs when the body temperature decreases below 35℃. At this point, the body begins to deteriorate and in most cases, causes multiple organ failure results.

Legal representative Mabu Marweshe said, “The cause of death as a result of hypothermia is consistent with the allegations that have been levelled against Shoprite that they did in fact lock him in the freezer or cold room…”

Marweshe told Daily Maverick that the family had also been mandated by them to assess the evidence to be presented in court and if there were prospects of pursuing a civil suit against Shoprite or any other individual that might have been involved.

Detailed questions were sent to Shoprite but were not answered by time of publication.

The retailer’s statement released on Tuesday 21 May 2024 confirmed that an internal disciplinary process was still underway and that branch management had been suspended and appropriate action would be taken in accordance with the law and the company’s code of conduct.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Daily Maverick journalists came to cover death in Shoprite cold room – security guards retaliate with rubber bullets

Family in agony

Bandile’s family is now preparing for his burial on Saturday May 25, 2024.

“We are still distraught, especially because we now have to bury him without the answers that we need.

“We are also disappointed that Shoprite has not made an effort to come and speak to us as a family nor did they even help to offer assistance with burial arrangements when my brother died in their hands,” said Tshabalala’s sister, Simangele.

Although arrests had been made, Simangele was still coming to terms with the reality of losing her only brother.

“It’s good that people will be held accountable, but it’s not something that we are celebrating because it is not going to bring back my brother’s life,” she added.

Several community members told Daily Maverick that this had not been an isolated incident as punishment was common for shoplifting crimes.

A resident, Thokoza Dlamini, said that last year, her niece had stolen a packet of cheese from Shoprite and was locked in its cold room.

“They confirmed to me that because police cannot arrest young children, they lock them in the cold room for two hours. It is a normal thing here, we are used to it.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Aluwani Nengovhela says:

    TBH, if I’m ever deceased due to such my family should be shameful and let it slide because I AM A CRIMINAL. It’s very possible that this was just one of the many crimes that I commit

    • Skinyela Skinyela says:

      It is not about whether he committed a crime or not, is about Shoprite taking the onto their own hands, acting as judge, jury and prosecutor.

      They have no right to put him on a coldroom, or to punish him in anyway, even if he was caught redhanded.

      The punishment is disproportionate to the crime, even if Shoprite had a right to punish him. but if you are happy to live in such a society, Aluwani, just say it.

      • Ryckard Blake says:

        Did the security guards hired by Shoprite INTENTIONALLY freeze him to death?
        Did the 20 and 25-year old security guards know that a hungry, thin drug addict would not endure freezing cold as long as a normal 35-year old?
        For what quantum of loss-of-support-&-income can the family sue the victim of their unemployed addict son’s crime, for excessive punishment?
        How many time a day does the store call the police, and how often do they respond within an hour or two?
        Is it truly illegal / kidnapping for a retailer’s security to detain-restrain a petty thief while waiting to hand him over to the police?
        Of all the guilties in this tragedy, suspected serial failure by the police should not be ignored.

        • Skinyela Skinyela says:

          1. Failure of the law enforcement agencies does not justify vigilantism.

          2. The security guards had no right to freeze him even for millisecond, so the question whether they intentionally killed him or not is mute.

          If you guys want to live in a society where some people are free to take the law onto their hands and act as judge, prosecutor, jury and executor, just say it.

          • Arthur Lilford says:

            We already live in the society where criminals rule the roost or have you been doing a “Rip Van Winkle” on us

        • Jaine Hannath says:

          Alleged! He is only alleged to have taken two chocolates. Now, according to your post, Ryckard, murdered Tshabalala is a drug addict too.
          He certainly cannot defend himself as you have deemed him guilty on two counts. That is just cruel.

      • Geoff Coles says:

        The security guards put the thief in a secure place. Was SAPS advised more or less immediately to come and do their thing, arrest, question him….. it seems not. Did the security guards go off shift… who took over ?

    • Alley Cat says:

      Wow. That’s harsh. Firstly, shop rite have no right to punish him. Secondly… Really. Someone died because they stole a chocolate?

    • Troy Marshall says:

      The punishment should fit the crime.
      Criminals must be sentenced by those who are qualified.
      When we, the members of the public get too involved, our emotions can make criminals of us.

    • Go to hell satan says:

      Dom kop

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Years and years ago I was staying in a block of flats in Durban. I was staying on the bottom floor. We had a cop staying on the top floor. Early morning, just after daybreak I hear shouts from the top floor and then a gunshot. I motor up to the top of the stairwell to find the cop standing with gun in hand. He’s buzzing because he’s just discharged his weapon. In the courtyard next door they had these large wheelie-bins. He had seen someone climbing out of one these bins; obviously this person had been hiding. He shouted at this person, this person ignored the shout and ran, so the cop took a shot, but he missed.
    I often think on that. That cop would have been in a world of bother if his shot hadn’t missed. Here’s a cop, he doesn’t know the law, doesn’t understand his powers.
    This Shoprite death, I wonder, do security personal understand their powers?

    • Maronga Maronga says:

      100% correct. Why take the law into town hands… just hand over the poor guy to authorities. Now you loose your job and possibly go to prison for what. Some people are walking Graves. Don’t be the one to finish them. You will be charged with murder of a dead person

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    I am utterly disgusted by the low value placed on a human life, both by the security personnel of this store, and some of the commentators of this article.

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