Johannesburg - Just one out of 217 cases of deaths allegedly at the hands of police in past year have resulted in a criminal conviction in Gauteng.
This is according to the police watchdog that is investigating the death of a Mozambican taxi driver who was dragged behind a police van on Tuesday.
The amateur footage of the incident has gone viral on the internet and caused widespread condemnation from government and civil society of the police’s actions.
A total of 932 cases of deaths in police custody and of police action were reported to the watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), across the country during the 2011/2012 period, and 217 of those came from Gauteng alone.
Between January 23 and February 27, four police officers were arrested, or appeared in court, for rape; two were arrested for murder, while four policemen went on trial for a murder in Diepsloot, and three policemen were sentenced for murder.
In the same period two tactical response team members were arrested for assaulting a fellow woman police officer and damaging her cellphone, while two KwaZulu-Natal warrant officers were arrested for corruption
Mido Macia was found dead in police cells on Tuesday night after being dragged about 400m behind a marked police van in Daveyton with his hands bound behind his head and tied to the vehicle.
Despite being dragged in a seated position, the post-mortem showed Macia died of head injuries and Ipid said it is investigating a case of murder and will perform another post-mortem.
Meanwhile, on Friday eight police officers involved in the Macia incident were arrested and charged with murder.
Spokesman for the ministry of police Zweli Mnisi said the ministry wanted swift action taken but not at the expense of a thorough investigation to root out the “dirty cops”.
“Sometimes you give them the blue uniform but sometimes they deserve the orange uniform,” said Mnisi.
In their annual report for the 2011/12 financial year, the Ipid outline the numbers of cases of “deaths in police custody and of police action”.
In Gauteng, they completed 164 out of 217 received complaints during the financial year, the second highest number after KZN.
Out of this, nine were referred to the courts or the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action but just one case ended with a criminal conviction.
A further 13 cases were recommended for internal disciplinary action to the SAPS, including three cases of death as a result of police action, one of murder and two of attempted murder.
All the officers were dismissed from the police, except for one of the officer accused of attempted murder who was “fined R500, to be deducted in equal instalments and dismissal suspended for six months”.
KwaZulu-Natal was the province with the highest number of reported deaths as a result of police action – 268.
It also had the highest number of referrals to the courts (68 recommendations) but only three ended in a successful criminal conviction.
The Daveyton station commander was removed from his position on Friday, following a direct order from the national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega.
The police will also conduct its own investigation alongside the Ipid’s.
“We shall fast-track (the investigation) to ensure we get to a quick solution, a quick outcome,” said Phiyega on Friday.
Mnisi denied there was a crisis regarding police brutality but said there was rather “continuous elements of recklessness by certain minute groups of officers”.