At a memorial service in Cape Town for Dumisani Joxo, friends remembered him as the kind of person who would share the last of his food with them. The 48-year-old father allegedly killed by a law enforcement officer on 9 January was buried in the Eastern Cape over the weekend of 22-23 January.
Joxo lived in the southern suburbs of the city on a strip of open land alongside the train tracks in Rondebosch. The homeless community that occupies the land lives in tented structures. They described him as a leader and father figure.
The City of Cape Town officer allegedly kicked over a pot of pap after instructing a man cooking breakfast to extinguish his small fire. A scuffle broke out and Joxo came out of his home, where he had been sleeping. The officer allegedly shot him in the mouth and he died at the scene.
The sweltering summer heat didn’t deter the nearly 60 people who attended the memorial service from coming to the strip of land to pay their respects. Members of community organisations, workers from the shopping centre near his home and Central City Improvement District officers were among those who attended. Some of his family also came. The spot on which the overturned pot had stood was covered with flowers and ribbons.
Joxo’s younger brother, Mzwanele Joxo, 32, described him as naughty growing up, but with a good heart. “My heart is broken. My brother has been taken away from me. He loves people so much. He loves, but don’t mess with him. That guy fought for me. Even now when I’m old. I had a big brother there. I’m trying to be strong. But my pillar is not here any more. I will miss him very much. He was like my father… my friend.
“Now I’m a grown man and I’m standing here, I don’t want to cry. I was raised by a father who is called Dumisani. That’s my brother and I’m so proud of him. To me he was my pillar.”
Joxo came to the Western Cape in search of a better life, said Mzwanele, and he would be remembered as a caring and kind person. “It doesn’t matter if he has a small piece of chicken, he will share it with you. “That’s the Dumisani that I know. Even now I know that he is watching over us. His spirit is here. We loved him, we cared about him. We are going to meet again somewhere.”
Joxo’s funeral was held in Butterworth, where he was born and grew up. Mzwanele said it had been a struggle to get his brother’s body from the mortuary because they couldn’t find his identity document and he had to make several trips to the Department of Home Affairs. Mzwanele also wasn’t sure how he was going to afford the cost of transporting his brother’s body to the Eastern Cape.
“I’m very proud [of him. The community in Rondebosch] would talk to me about the way he was. He would sacrifice everything for another person. He doesn’t want someone to suffer. I thought it was only me, because I was his brother.”
Mzwanele said Joxo had left home in about 2011 and after that they didn’t know where he was. “Even us, we didn’t know where he was sleeping.”
Portia Ncoko said their small homeless community was utterly shattered by the shooting. “One of the guys came to me to tell me that I must come to the back. I asked him why, because I was still sleeping. He said, ‘Your brother passed away.’ He was like a brother to me, a father. I came running and I could not control myself because it was overwhelming.
“Dumisani was a leader, a father, a brother to everyone. He was a man of the moment. He was a man of peace. He was a man of the music speaker box.” Ncoko said they always knew when Joxo was coming to visit one of the tents because he carried a portable bluetooth speaker on him. They work as car guards, she said.
“You know that you will never go hungry. With the last money in his pocket, he will always feed us. We are all going to miss him and remember him with love and peace.”
Ncoko, who is originally from George, said mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement officers is common. “What I’ve seen is that law enforcement don’t use the name of law, they only use the name of force. It’s like they have something against homeless people. They become their targets and worst enemies.”
Known as the Chester Street community, the occupiers of the plot have been receiving support from activist organisation and law centre Ndifuna Ukwazi.
“The City is guilty of using excessive force to address a by-law offence. To use a loaded firearm to threaten someone to extinguish a small fire used for cooking is a disproportionate and irresponsible response. It is unacceptable that the City’s law enforcement be allowed to continue its work without urgent and drastic intervention, and for all those guilty of this heinous and cruel loss of life to be held to account. We demand justice for Dumisani Joxo,” said Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney Daniellé Louw.
The City of Cape Town said at the time that its law enforcement officers were responding to an open fire in an urban area, “which is a hazard with potential consequences that our city and its residents know all too well”.
It said it viewed any shooting incident involving law enforcement officers seriously and would cooperate fully with the official South African Police Service investigation.
Ndifuna Ukwazi helped the family raise funds through crowdfunding for Joxo’s funeral. And Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis confirmed that he contributed towards funeral costs in his capacity as mayor. A meeting also took place at the South African Human Rights Commission after Joxo’s death that included a discussion on how to tackle violence and harassment involving homeless people.
Joxo leaves behind the Chester Street community, his partner Christin, three brothers and other family in the Eastern Cape.