File photo shows an officer from Worcester SAPS who was filmed beating a man with a sjambok. Photo: supplied
File photo shows an officer from Worcester SAPS who was filmed beating a man with a sjambok. Photo: supplied

Western Cape police brutality during lockdown scrutinised in legislature

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Feb 26, 2021

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Cape Town - Between the start of the lockdown on March 26, 2020 and January 31, 2021 there were 1 065 complaints against the police and of these, 971 related to police brutality in the Western Cape, according to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz quoted the figures in a written reply to a query from Standing Committee on Community Safety chairperson Reagen Allen (DA).

Fritz said: “All these cases were lodged at various police stations in the province and referred to Ipid for investigation.”

“In 241 cases, the investigations were resolved. The NPA decided to prosecute 19 cases, which are currently on the court roll, namely 11 assaults, four deaths as a result of police action and four charges of rape by police officers. Two cases were withdrawn,” said Fritz.

“One fifth of the 5 226 complaints lodged with Ipid, since the start of lockdown until January, occurred in the province. It must be noted that Ipid has recorded approximately 5 900 cases per annum, since 2014/15, and the current year of reporting, has yet to be concluded.”

“We continue to face a persistent misallocation of policing resources, or even complete SAPS absence in some cases. This, along with the high number of alleged cases of police brutality, further erodes public confidence in the police service,” said Allen.

ANC provincial community safety spokesperson, Mesuli Kama, said: “We cannot deny the fact that there have been cases where police have exerted unnecessary brute force against the people, who were at times very peaceful. We have witnessed some of these incidents and others have been widely reported in the press.”

“Another distasteful conduct that needs to be investigated is the complaint of differentiated approaches to blacks and whites. Police tend to use force to disperse black protesters while they have a more peaceful approach towards white protesters,” said Kama.

Standing committee member, Ferlon Christians (ACDP), said: “This number of 971 is not a true reflection because many people do not complain against police brutality. As the ACDP, we would want to know: Is it the same police stations, same police officers? If it is, that will give us a red flag to understand who the police officers are who exercise this brutality against our people.”

Police spokesperson Andrè Traut said: “Any form of police brutality is condemned in the strongest possible terms by police management in this province, and any member of SAPS who makes him or herself guilty of an offence in this regard cannot expect to be protected by the employer.”

“We welcome an independent investigation by Ipid to probe the circumstances. Operational members are frequently sensitised by their commanders regarding the dangers of overstepping the boundaries when force is necessitated, and training in this regard is provided to employees of SAPS,” said Traut.

Cape Argus

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