Sharp rise in police brutality
Johannesburg - More South Africans died in police custody or because of police action in the past year than previously, while rapes and torture incidents also increased.
Although most of the deaths took place in KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Gauteng, the Western Cape not only recorded the most rapes by police but also assaults by officers and complaints about police firing their firearms in public.
The shocking information, highlighting the spike in incidents of police brutality, is revealed in the 2014/15 annual report of the police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), released on Wednesday.
This emerged on the same day that the SAPS 2014/15 annual report revealed that the police incurred civil claim liabilities of more than R9.5 billion due to police misconduct in the past year. Of that figure, R8.8bn was notched up in relation to police action, just more than R235 million for shootings and R94.3m for assaults.
However, the incurred civil claims liability doesn’t reflect the amounts paid out as these may yet change “due to matters becoming litigious of nature, revision of claim amounts by claimants, or subsequent actuarial or medical assessments of damages suffered”, notes the SAPS 2014/15 annual report.
More disconcerting is that the SAPS expects its civil claims liability to increase this year – an additional R6.4bn has been ring-fenced, pushing the total up to R26.9bn as of March 31 this year.
Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega confirmed that R26bn was “a lot of money for litigation” and it was “an area that bothers us”. “It is a highly litigious environment. We don’t pay quite the R26bn because we will take our time to defend whatever is defendable to ensure whatever we pay is meritable.”
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said the contingency liability amounts were an immeasurable cost to the safety and security of millions of South Africans, who should be benefiting from those financial resources in the fight against crime.
“The SAPS is making provision for the possibility that a third of its national budget may have to be paid out to cover for criminal and civil claims against SAPS members, who in part are completely without discipline,” added Kohler Barnard.
Details of the just over 25 percent increase in the SAPS contingency liability also emerged as the SAPS 2014/15 annual report admits failure to meet the target to reduce incidents leading to civil claims against the police. The target was to reduce such incidents by 3.4 percent.
Instead, the number of incidents leading to civil claims against the police went up by 21 percent. A total of 9 877 new incidents leading to civil claims against the police were logged by the SAPS, up from 8 161 complaints in the 2013/14 report.
“Target not achieved. Inadequate implementation of internal controls and compliance with SAPS SOPs (standing operating procedures) by members contributed to the increase,” the SAPS report states.
KwaZulu-Natal recorded the most deaths in police custody (54) and 122 deaths as a result of 108 incidents of police action, up from the previous year’s death toll of 117.
Gauteng came second with 48 deaths in police custody and 107 deaths arising in 105 incidents of police action, followed by the Eastern Cape, which recorded 44 deaths in police custody. KwaZulu-Natal also leads with regard to incidents of torture by police (45), followed by Mpumalanga (30) and 23 such complaints each in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
Nationally, there were 244 recorded deaths in police custody, up by 4 percent from 234. Also, 423 South Africans died as a result of action by police or metro police in 396 incidents – 10 incidents are linked to metro cops. This marks an overall increase of 2 percent from the previous year’s 390 incidents.
About 124 police officers were linked to rape, up from 121 – with 42 police officials being on duty during the rape. Rapes in police custody increased 79 percent from 19 to 34 – 20 of these were committed by civilians and 14 by police officers.
The Ipid report shows most deaths as a result of police action happened during arrest, mostly by being shot with an official firearm. Complaints of police firing off their guns increased a staggering 119 percent to 940 complaints, up from 429.
Incidents of torture increased by 86 percent to 145 cases, up from 78 the previous financial year.