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Johannesburg - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa should not step down, the police ministry has said.
And national SAPS spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati has failed to respond to questions about whether the national commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, will resign.
This follows the latest incident of police brutality, which has sent shockwaves around the globe – for the second week in a row South Africa’s poor policing has made world news.
With Mthethwa on honeymoon until March 12, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has been drafted in to manage the fallout from the horror video of Daveyton taxi driver Mido Macia being dragged behind a police van for upward of 500m, the subsequent alleged assault for two hours by police officers, and a further four hours in which he was denied medical attention – finally leaving the Mozambican dead.
Smartphone footage by onlookers shows Macia, whose crime was apparently parking his taxi on the wrong side of the road, being roughed up and handcuffed by police before being dragged behind a moving police vehicle to the nearby station – where witnesses testified to protracted and brutal beatings.
This was on Tuesday.
And it was only on Friday – after international broadcasters, including BBC, CNN and Sky, aired the video footage on Thursday – that Cwele and Phiyega stepped in.
In a storm of public outrage, Phiyega ordered the eight suspects suspended and disarmed. Later in the day the eight were arrested and Daveyton station commissioner Colonel Thomas Maupa was moved as a precautionary measure. This followed angry mobs of Daveyton residents storming the police station and demanding that the alleged murderers be handed over to mob justice.
National SAPS spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati failed to respond to questions about the desirability of Phiyega resigning in the light of international and local outrage.
An initial autopsy on Macia showed extensive internal injuries and head trauma. Police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), has ordered a second autopsy as it investigates.
The eight suspects will face charges of murder in Daveyton on Monday, according to Ipid.
Amid the public outcry – and condemnation by, among others, President Jacob Zuma, the government, the ANC, trade union federation Cosatu, and the newcomer political platform Agang – Phiyega said yesterday: “We would like to assure the country and the world that what is in the video is not how the SAPS in a democratic South Africa goes about its work.”
But Gareth Newham, head of the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme, said these videos of police brutality are just the tip of the iceberg, with violence appearing to be “routine” in police operations, given the 1 000-odd cases of assault and attempted murder that have been opened against the SAPS.
Cwele, meanwhile, called for the speedy processing of the case, and appealed for calm in Daveyton.
Dismissing any suggestion that his minister should take ultimate responsibility for the scandal, police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi on Friday pointed out that 93 police officers were killed by criminals last year. Steps were under way to improve training, raise recruitment standards and to strengthen relations between police and communities, he added.
The video of Macia, 27, being dragged behind a police van while handcuffed to the back of it, was among the top stories on the websites of the BBC, CNN and Sky, and featured in a plethora of international online newspapers as far afield as London, China and New Zealand.
This was but the latest in a string of SA policing outrages and came amid an international focus on violence in South Africa.
The international Time magazine has featured Paralympian Oscar Pistorius on its cover this weekend.
The week before a bail court saw defence lawyers demolishing the testimony of police investigator Warrant Officer Hilton Botha for basic forensic incompetence. It then emerged Botha was facing seven attempted murder charges.
Six months ago, the country and the world watched in horror television footage of police killing 34 striking Marikana miners.
And in April 2011 the SABC showed how Ficksburg activist and teacher Andries Tatane died after police assaulted him during a service delivery protest.
In February that year police were caught on camera assaulting patrons at Catz Pyjamas in Joburg, reportedly after a drunk patron threw a beer bottle in their direction.
During the recent protests at Zamdela in the Free State, against a municipal merger, four people were killed, reportedly by police who were filmed firing live ammunition at looting protesters.
While several officers are on trial for Tatane’s killing, and others face trial for the so-called Cato Manor hit squad killings in KwaZulu-Natal, no one is yet charged with the Marikana killings since the commission of inquiry into the events continues.
However, Phiyega and Mthethwa this week received notice of a multimillion-rand legal claim for damages and loss of income by the families of the 34 Marikana miners killed by police. Brought under the Institution of Legal Proceedings Against Certain Organs of State Act, Phiyega and Mthethwa have 30 days in which to respond.
“We are probably looking at many cases (of police brutality) happening across South Africa every day,” the ISS’s Newham said, adding that while he welcomed the swift suspension of the eight Daveyton policemen, this was a “band aid”.
“It is not going to stop the underlying symptomatic problems – leadership and management… The biggest deterrent is that they (police officers) know if they act like this then they lose their jobs. This has nothing to do with training.”
While certainly not all of the 130 000-odd police officers were rotten apples, incidents of police brutality demoralised those wanting to do a good job, he added.
What happened to Macia, who had lived in South Africa for the past 10 years and leaves behind a widow and baby, has drawn strong condemnation.
Zuma said on Thursday “the visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable”.
“No human being should be treated in that manner.”
ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu called on witnesses to come forward to assist with the investigation.
Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele said that, coming after Marikana, she was shocked at the police behaviour.
Roll call of dishonour
* Six months ago, the world watched in horror television footage showing police opening fire on striking Lonmin miners, killing 34 in Marikana. A commission of inquiry is investigating the deaths.
* In December last year, student constable Sipho Mbatha was sentenced to 17 years, five suspended by the South Gauteng High Court for the murder of Thato Mokoka, 16, in Soweto.
* In April 2011, SABC television showed how activist and teacher Andries Tatane died after police assaulted him during a service delivery protest in Meqheleng, Ficksburg in the eastern Free State. Several officers are on trial for Tatane’s killing.
* In February 2011, police were caught on CCTV camera assaulting patrons at Catz Pyjamas in Joburg, after a drunk patron threw a beer bottle in their direction.
* During protests at Zamdela in the Free State, against the merger of Metsimaholo (Salsolburg) and Ngwathe (Parys) municialities, |four people were killed, reportedly by police who |were filmed firing live ammunition.
* In KwaZulu-Natal the so-called Cato Manor hit squad killings have seen several arrests of police officers for involvement in the incidents.