Cele’s brutal force
March 20 2011
South African police are becoming more brutal by the day, with civil cases against them pushing the contingent liability budget to a whopping R7.5 billion in the last financial year.
The Sunday Tribune reveals today that the sharp spike in brutal action by the police has prompted the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) to investigate three times more severe assault cases last year than in 2001.
These revelations come as the country celebrates Human Rights Day tomorrow and against the backdrop of a recent case in which the police were accused of using excessive force on civilians.
Last month the police stormed a restaurant in Melville, Joburg, in the early hours and assaulted patrons. The incident was captured on closed-circuit TV cameras inside the Catz Pyjamas and it shocked the nation.
Police researchers and lawyers who specialise in litigating against the police have warned that anecdotal reports of giving electric shocks, suffocation and other apartheid-style torture methods have become more prevalent.
- Since 2001/02 the number of assault investigations conducted by the ICD has trebled from 255 to 920 in 2009/10.
- Attempted murder cases it investigated have gone up over seven times from 43 in 2001/02 to 325 in the last financial year.
- The number of fatal shooting investigations was at an all-time high over the past two financial years – at 556 in 2008/09 and 524 in 2009/10.
And policing researchers say the spike in fatal shootings can be traced back to KwaZulu-Natal, where there has been a 173 percent increase in five years – from 75 in 2005/06 to 205 in 2009/10.
“These statistics raise the question of whether sections of the police in KwaZulu-Natal may have adopted an approach which is defined by the belief that extra-legal methods are not only justified, but in fact necessary to address violent crime.”
Meanwhile, the courts are flooded with civil cases against the police that have pushed the contingent liability budget to R2bn more than the 2005/06 financial year when the police were prepared to pay R5.3bn for assault, damage to property, shooting incidents and other “police actions”.
The Tribune has found a number of civil cases lodged in the Joburg and Pretoria High courts in which the applicants claim the police assaulted, gave electric shocks or suffocated them, and they demand compensation.
The taxpayer carries the burden of paying for the police’s excessive use of force.
“These acts cannot be tolerated in a constitutional democracy."
“Policing in 2011 should be totally different from the apartheid past that we come from.
“Police officers should uphold the rule of law and not be the ones accused of breaking it,” said ICD executive director Francois Beukman.
The outcry came after video footage emerged of police Tactical Response Team (TRT) members barging into Melville bar, the Catz Pyjamas, and assaulting patrons.
The ICD says it is investigating the incident along with another, also involving TRT members, which took place at CJs Pub in Hillbrow.
Wits Law Clinic lawyer Peter Jordi says: “There is a level of criminality within the police much higher than the police will admit.”
He believes there could be hundreds more incidents of common assault at the hands of the police that are not being reported.