Unarmed black man with SA roots ‘shot dead’ by Swiss police officer

The Star Early Edition, 13 Jan 2022, SIZWE DLAMINI sizwe.dlamini@inl.co.za

AS THE global Black Lives Matter campaign gained momentum after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a US policeman, an unarmed man with South African roots was allegedly shot and killed by police at a train station in Switzerland on August 30 last year.

Roger Wilhelm, 37, also known as Nzoyi, was of South African and Swiss parentage. His sister, Angela, said he had been suffering from depression and she believes he had a mild panic attack at the train station, where he was screaming and crying before police were called to the scene.

“When the police arrived they failed to notice that he was having a panic attack and they reacted with deadly force.”

Video footage shared with Independent Media, shows that after shooting him the police handcuffed him and left him bleeding and did not help him.

According to witnesses at the scene, a woman who was in the train ran out of it to try to resuscitate him while he was on the ground, but it was too late.

Angela said Wilhelm, who was travelling alone on the day, took a train from Zurich to Geneva and on the way back he got out at Morges.

Saunders Nzoyi, Wilhelm’s other sibling, and Angela were asked to first prove that they were indeed his siblings. Angela said they had to produce WhatsApp chats, pictures as well as birth certificates.

“The prosecutor that works closely with the police has twice refused to accept us as plaintiffs. We had to take the matter to a higher court and that was where we were eventually accepted as plaintiffs,” said Angela.

The case has been opened and investigations are under way.

Andrew Rae, the first secretary at the South African Embassy in Bern, said the Mission in Bern’s understanding was that Wilhelm was a Swiss national.

“We have undertaken communication with the Swiss authorities to confirm his status as either a Swiss national or indeed as a holder of dual nationality.

This will serve to inform our understanding of what happened during this terribly sad incident,” said Rae.

Wilhelm’s cousin, Nolwandle Nzoyi, based in Johannesburg, said the incident had been very hard on the whole family.

“We have to fight for justice but it is difficult to do that as one unit because one part of the family is in Switzerland, the other here in South Africa.

“We could not attend his funeral due to Covid-19 restrictions. Roger’s mother (my aunt) – who is also deceased – left South Africa during the apartheid era and lived in Switzerland with her children. It is painful that he was killed by white police just as he was planning to come back home to South Africa next year (2022),” she said.

Nolwandle said Wilhelm was cremated in Switzerland, with no assistance from the state, and his ashes would be sent to South Africa, where his mother was buried. She said the matter was reported to the South African Embassy in Switzerland.

While Nzoyi acknowledges that this might have been a grave error by the police, she pointed out that the police were afraid of a black man.

“The police officer who called the ambulance said ‘there is a man here, a man of colour’. Was it important for him to say that?

“Trained police officers against one man? They shot him and they let him lie there for more than four minutes without any help. They used their feet to move his body,” she said.

Angela said they were afraid that they would not have a fair case, claiming that the prosecutor and the police worked closely together. “We have to pay for legal costs from our pockets and this is expensive; the prosecutor has an unlimited budget. We don’t have an unlimited budget,” she said. According to Nolwandle, Angela has also been receiving threats from some people on the streets and on social media for fighting for her brother.

“As a family we want the world to know about Roger’s death and we need to get justice for him.”

This tragic incident occurred at the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign.

Human rights activists and commentators have described the unwarranted killing of black people as a global phenomenon.

This as Switzerland finds itself having to deal with the deaths of a Nigerian man, Mike Ben Peter, and a Congolese man, Hervé Bondembe Mandundu, also at the hands of the police.

According to www.swissinfo.ch, Switzerland documented a record 352 cases of discrimination in 2019, reflecting an increase in racist acts in public places.