Mbeki’s nephew dies after altercation with Swedish cops

Swedish police are facing accusations of brutality leading to his death. They have also been accused of attempting a cover-up.

Sunday World can reveal that Magnus Moerane (41), the son of Mbeki’s cousin Sophia Moerane, suffered fractures to his skull after being apprehended by the police in Stockholm in October.

It has emerged that Magnus was declared dead on arrival at a Stockholm hospital. But the police told Moerane that Magnus had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital and could not be saved.

It took the intervention of the South African embassy in Sweden for Moerane to get full disclosure about her son’s death and access to the autopsy reports.

“The mission wrote a diplomatic note to the Swedish Foreign Ministry in which it was indicated that Moerane was not satisfied with the initial information provided, and that the embassy requested the authorities to provide a full disclosure around the circumstances of the death of Magnus Moerane.

“The Swedish authorities gave full co-operation to the SA embassy and provided the results of their investigations, including a second autopsy, to the embassy,” said Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela. He said the embassy could not interfere in the legal processes of a sovereign state.

Moerane believes her son was the victim of a racist assault by the police, similar to the shooting of a 69-year-old man of Portuguese origin in Stockholm last month, sparking riots.

A 73-year-old retired nurse, Moerane said she had known that her worst nightmare would soon become a reality when the police refused to show her the file on her son.

She reported Magnus missing a day after not hearing from him and after going to his flat.

Moerane last saw her son on October 30. He was dead the next day.

“The police told me to get an attorney because there was a problem,” she said.

Moerane’s ordeal worsened when she was told that she did not qualify for legal aid because she did not have home insurance.

She said her persistence in demanding answers from the police eventually led to them breaking the news of Magnus’s death to her and her youngest son, Vuyo (35).

“A man came into the room and said that, according to the report, the police had apprehended Magnus. They were forced to give him a bear-hug (tackle) to restrain him because he was big and tall.

“They said Magnus broke loose and fell on the concrete, which fractured his skull,” said Moerane.

Moerane phoned Mbeki a few weeks ago to tell him of the death of her son and the circumstances.

“I said: ‘Motswala (cousin), it’s bad.’ He went quiet and said: ‘I’m shocked,'” Moerane said.

Mbeki’s office was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Magnus was the eldest son of Mbeki’s cousin Moerane – the fifth child of Mbeki’s late uncle, Michael Moerane.

Michael Moerane was the elder brother of Mbeki’s mother, Epainette. He was a renowned music teacher and classical music composer.

The police said that after the 41-year-old fell he was put into a police car, then suffered seizures followed by heart failure .

The autopsy report said Magnus died from “the breaking of of the skull base and wounds in the brain tissues.

The report further said: “The injuries to the head have a look that can be the result of an unidentified blunt object.”

Swedish police commissioner Marianne Oman, who dealt with the case, was unavailable for comment.

Moerane said a three-paragraph letter from deputy chief district attorney Kay Engfeldt proved her theory that a cover-up was being attempted.

In the letter, Engfeldt said she had found “no reason for investigation” of Magnus’s death.

Engfeldt wrote: “Known facts: A man has died in connection with a police intervention. It gives no suggestion that a crime has been committed by someone from the police.”

Engfeldt’s decision came after a final autopsy report stated that Magnus died from “acute poisoning by Sertraline”.

Sertraline is an antidepressant used to treat depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and anxiety disorders.

But Moerane refuses to accept this version of events.

She believes her son was the victim of racial profiling – condoned by the Swedish government to rid its borders of illegal immigrants.

“Police brutality and racial profiling are common here,”Moerane said.

She added: “I am saddened that I had to bury my son in a country that didn’t want him. We might as well have remained in South Africa and have him die a noble death because he was fighting apartheid.”

Magnus worked at Arrow Nordic Components AB from 1998 to 2001.

He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that results in difficulty with social interactions.

The Swedish embassy in Pretoria said it had not received any information from the Swedish Ministry of Justice concerning the Sunday World’s inquiry into the ambiguities surrounding the death of Magnus Moerane.

Chronology: Magnus’s last days

  • October 30 2012: Magnus goes to his mother’s flat in Rinkeby, Stockholm, for a visit.
  • October 31 2012: Sophia Moerane prepares for family’s weekly dinner. Magnus is unusually absent.
  • November 1 2012: Sophia goes to Magnus’s flat and finds everything in order. She decides to file a missing persons report at the police station.
  • November 6 2012: Police inform Sophia of her son’s death
  • November 29 2012: Deputy Chief Attorney Kay Engfeldt at the District Attorney’s office informs Sophia Moerane that the office found no wrongdoing on the part of the police and that no further action would be taken.
  • December 11 2012: Magnus Moerane is buried.

The link with former president

Michael Moerane was the last born of seven children, including former president Thabo Mbeki’s mother, Epainette. He was born in 1909.

Moerane was the first black person to obtain a music degree at a South African university (Bachelor of Music degree at Unisa). Moerane was a distinguished composer, pianist and choral director.

In 1952, Thabo Mbeki moved to Queenstown and stayed with Moerane.

Moerane’s six children and Mbeki grew close during his stay there for several years.

Mbeki developed a love for reading and music from an early age. Moerane taught him to play the flute. Moerane died in 1981.

Sophia Moerane is the fifth of Moerane’s six children.

A qualified nurse, she worked in Zambia, Kenya and England before settling in Sweden in 1975. She has three children, of which Magnus was the eldest.

  • ncanan@sundayworld.co.za or
  • Twitter @NkululekoNcana