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The prevalence of police brutality in South Africa

23 April 2015 4:56 PM

1770 cases of police brutality are reported, on average, in South Africa per year. That's almost five incidents a day.

Mduduzi Nkosi's story

The concern surrounding police brutality in South Africa was again brought into the spotlight when a young man named Mduduzi Nkosi was allegedly shot at by police officers in Orlando East, Soweto, earlier this month.

Independent Media reported that the officers, not dressed in uniform and using an unmarked vehicle, shot at Nkosi three times.

I'm taking it day by day as it comes. I'm not the same. I thought I'd get better sooner. The doctors say that I will get there with time. I have never been so scared in my life. Thinking back, that was the most traumatic ordeal in my life. I have no trust in the South African police.

Mduduzi Nkosi

Nkosi was placed in the intensive care unit at Lesedi Private Hospital in Diepkloof. He spoke to CapeTalk and 702 presenter Rei Tlhabi about the ordeal.

Nkosi says he did not think much of the unmarked vehicle. He says when the vehicle blocked his way, and he attempted to reverse, the occupants of the vehicle shot at him.

As Nkosi tried to escape, he identified a Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) vehicle and tried approaching it to explain that he thought he was being hijacked. According to Nkosi, the JMPD occupants also proceeded to shoot at him.

He was shot in his forearm and in his right thigh. Nkosi says that he is pursuing a criminal case and that he has been corresponding with officials at the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

The facts and figures of police brutality

The City Press recently published analysis of police brutality in South Africa, based on 10 years worth of case records from Ipid.

After the news organisation filed a Promotion of Access to Information Act application for Ipid to release the documents detailing deaths, rapes, assaults and tortures that took place in police custody between 2004 and 2014, here is what they found:

Police stations in South Africa, ranked in terms of the most reported cases of brutality between 2004 - 2014. Image credit: City Press.

According to the records released in the article, tilted Brutality... just another day on the job:

  • On average, police brutality in South Africa are e reported 1770 times a year; close to five incidents a day.
  • Of the 17 694 cases reported to Ipid, just more than one in five (3644) were laid against police in the Western Cape; 2848 complaints against them were laid in Gauteng.

According to the article, it is not possible to discern whether the cases of police abuse have risen or declined since 2004. This is because most of the Ipid records dating back to 2004 were incomplete, with case numbers, incident dates, names of police stations and complainants’ details unrecorded in many instances.

"I am not shocked" - Professor Peter Jordi, law expert

Professor Peter Jordi, from Wits Law School, told Redi Tlhabi that he feels the figures published in the analysis underestimate the true instances of police brutality, because some victims feel too intimidated to report their cases.

When light is shone in dark corners, it can be a healthy experience for the country as a whole.

Peter Jordi

Jordi says that the prevalence of police abuse is more pronounced in rural areas because they feel that they are immune to facing disciplinary repercussions. He says that assaults and misconduct are related to each other and that they ought to be dealt with in that sense.

We need to make sure that they [police officers] do their job lawfully and correctly. And it is not only an issue related to assaults and misconduct in that regard. It's also related to corruption. Maybe if police management focused on fighting internal corruption things would tend to start getting better in the other areas of policing as well.

Peter Jordi

Listeners contributed their experiences and perceptions of police misconduct in the country as well.

_(Also read_: Cases of SAPS criminality and misconduct call their credibility into question).

Listen to the full conversation on the Redi Tlhabi Show:

23 April 2015 4:56 PM