Kanyi Dyantyi will not have the wedding she was looking forward to after her Nigerian-born fiancé died while in police custody in Cape Town earlier this month.
Obinna Ugboaja’s death has sparked the ire of the Nigerian community who marched to parliament on Friday demanding an end to police brutality against foreigners.
March organisers, the Nigerian Union in the Western Cape and Frontline Africa, argued that Nigerians were being targeted for brutal treatment by the police.
They said in most cases brutality was swept under the carpet because of the false assumption that all Nigerians were criminals.
According to the Independent Complaints Directorate 2011/2012 annual report, 932 people died in police custody or as a result of police action.
The Nigerian Union wants the death of 32-year-old Ugboaja to be investigated and has opened a case at Cape Town Central police station.
While police said they were investigating his death, grief-stricken Dyantyi, who met Ugboaja five years ago, remains in the dark about what led to his death.
“I really don’t know exactly what happened. They took me to the mortuary where I found my husband dead. His mouth and neck were full of blood and he had marks on his neck, like he had been held hard.
“They said he had overdosed on cocaine. He didn’t even smoke cigarettes.”
Dyantyi said Ugboaja – who was a computer technician at First Coast Technologies and had been living in South Africa for seven years – left their Brooklyn home on the night of January 6 to meet friends in town.
She started worrying when he didn’t come home and his phone went unanswered. After notifying his brother, Dyantyi took their one-year-old daughter to the police station where his car was parked.
But she was sent away with no answers.
“I waited for almost two-and-a-half hours. My baby was screaming. I didn’t even know he was dead. They didn’t tell me,” she said.
When she returned the next morning, she was taken to the mortuary.
“We were supposed to go to Nigeria, during easter to marry. His family is waiting. I don’t work and I don’t even know how we are going to pay to bury him,” she said.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini said the matter was being investigated.
“If someone dies in police custody then we investigate,” he said.
Azubuike Okparaugo, president of the Nigerian Union in the Western Cape, said it was irrelevant whether Ugboaja had been rightfully arrested or not.
“We were not marching to protest his innocence or his guilt. If he is guilty take him to court and give him a maximum sentence. Police are not the court of law,” Okparaugo said, adding that the police conduct in Ugboaja’s death should be investigated.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said an inquest docket has been opened into Ugboaja’s death and the directorate was investigating the case.