Police brutality cases 'not properly probed'

FOCUS: Minister Nathi Mthethwa
FOCUS: Minister Nathi Mthethwa

CASES of murder, torture and assault by police officers have continued to slip through the cracks because of late or non-reporting to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Briefing the media in Cape Town on Monday, executive director Francois Beukman said that at some police stations complaints were not forwarded to the investigators.

"There are areas in which late reporting or non-reporting is occurring, in violation of Section 29 of the IPID Act. Failure to report or late reporting is a criminal offence," he said.

Beukman said about 5000 cases of assault, murder, torture and misconduct by police officers were reported last year.

There were also about 500 cases currently on the court roll.

The directorate's powers were strengthened in April after regulations which outlined exactly what police activities were criminal in nature and needed to be reported were tabled.

These included any deaths in police custody or as a result of police actions, rape by an officer - whether off or on duty - rape of a person by another while in custody, torture and corrupt activities.

Beukman said unlike the Independent Complaints Directorate, which only reported to Parliament once a year, the IPID was obliged to table two reports a year. He outlined some of the cases currently before the courts and related to more than 40 officers.

These included allegations that 12 officers from the Bellville Organised Crime Unit had tortured, assaulted and murdered 24-year-old Sidwell Mkwambi.

The charges relate to the alleged kidnapping and murder in 2009 of Mkwambi and the kidnapping, assault and torture of his friends, Siyabulela Njova and Mthuthuzeli Rantaoleng, as well as other witnesses.

The officers appeared in court in last month and the matter was postponed to August 24. Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini said the men were still in the police force. "They were never arrested but just subpoenaed to be in court."

In North West, , five members of the Klerksdorp Organised Crime Unit were also in court over reports that they tortured alleged bank robbers in 2010.

One of the officers, Captain Tsietsi Mano, was also the investigating officer in the Eugene Terre'Blanche murder case.

The men were not suspended and their trial continues in July.

In another case, CCTV footage shows officers beating patrons at a tavern in Wallacedene in Western Cape earlier this year.

Peter Jordi, of the Wits Law Clinic, said even if allegations of torture or assault were lodged, the probability that they would be properly investigated and prosecuted was low. "Even if there is a conviction, the outcome is unlikely to be serious enough that they are [kicked] out of the police force," said Jordi.

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