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Investigation Launches Into Death of LGBT Sex Worker in Police Custody

Elma Robyn Montsumi is yet another Black South African to die in the wake of continued police brutality during the country's national lockdown.

South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has reportedly launched an investigation into the death of LGBT sex worker, Elma Robyn Montsumi, who was being held in custody at Cape Town's Mowbray police station. Montsumi had been arrested for alleged drug possession in April. IPID's investigation comes after advocacy groups including the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke, the National Movement of Sex Workers and Triangle Project all raised concerns over the circumstances surrounding Montsumi's death, News24 reports.

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According to several reports, Montsumi was supposed to be released on bail according to the South Africa's ongoing lockdown regulations. However, she was never released and allegedly went on to commit suicide. In a joint statement by the advocacy organisations involved, they write the following:

"Robin's partner reported that he and some of her friends from the area were able to communicate with her by shouting from the outside and she would call back on how she was doing. They reported she said on the Saturday [11 April] that she felt ill and was vomiting," the organisations said on Friday. According to her friends, she did not respond [on the] Sunday morning [12 April] when they tried to call on her and when her partner got to the police station, there was an ambulance and bystanders told him that it was Robyn inside and that she [hanged] herself."

The statement goes on to add: "Our lobbying officer went inside the police station to inquire and she was simply told that Robyn had been taken to Groote Schuur hospital. Robyn's family... went to Mowbray police station and was told that the detective who came to the station just before noon to book Robyn found her body in the cells."

Police brutality towards Black people particularly during the national lockdown continues to anger many South Africans. In the just the first few weeks of the lockdown, more Black people died at the hands of police and SANDF officials than from the coronavirus. As protests against police brutality sweep across America, France, England, Australia and New Zealand, the anti-Black and racist nature of many police systems is being thrust into the spotlight.

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