The Independent Police Investigative Directorate said on Monday it would lay charges against a worrying number of police officers who failed to report wrongdoing to the watchdog body.
IPID executive director Francois Beukman said the unit, the former Independent Complaints Directorate, had noted a growing failure in parts of the country by police stations to forward complaints to its investigators.
“Since the beginning of April we have noticed that while there is increased reporting in many areas, however there are areas in which late reporting or non-reporting is occurring in violation of section 29 of IPID Act,” he said.
“Failure to report or late reporting is a criminal offence. We are looking to ensuring that those responsible officials who do not comply with the IPID legislation and regulations... are in fact charged criminally and brought before the courts.”
IPID was formed on April 1 after legislation was enacted to give the police watchdog greater teeth.
Beukman said in terms of the law, the new body's primary source of complaints were police stations because that was where most of the offences that it must investigate were first reported. The police must by law forward the matter to the IPID within 24 hours.
He said the unit hoped to appoint more investigators and to increase its number of satelitte offices as “we have to have our investigators at the crime scene very soon after it happened”.
Beukman spoke after stipulating the regulations governing the work of the IPID. These compel it to investigate all deaths in police custody and as a result of police actions, any complaints relating to the police's use of firearms, complaints of rape or torture by the police and any corruption within the force.
The new cases tackled by the unit so far included the alleged assault by a policeman on a 13-year-old boy suspected of stealing money from a relative. The child suffered fractured arms.
Beukman said the unit's work resulted in 12 members of the Bellville organised crime unit appearing in court in May for the murder of 24-year-old Sidwell Mkwambi and the torture of a witness. Mkwambi's body was found in the back of a police van.
“This is but one of the many cases of torture that we are dealing with around the country,” he said.
IPID reiterated that it was investigating neither the allegations of corruption nor murder against suspended former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
The corruption charges were being probed by the Inspector General of Intelligence, Faith Radebe, and the murder case was being investigated by the Hawks before the IPID came into being. - Sapa