History of police brutality continues

Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng
steve biko
Today South Africa remembers, Steven Bantu Biko, who died a tragic death in police custody, 36 years ago (18 December 1946- 12 September 1977). He was an anti-apartheid activist and writer in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. The Security police detained Biko on 18 August 1977. He was thirty years old and was reportedly fit at the time of his arrested. Biko was taken to Port Elizabeth but later transferred to Pretoria, where he died in detention on 12 September 1977 as a result of brain injuries (that’s what the SA police said, but it was as a result of torture and brutal assault).

Biko is the father of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa, and his death is seen by many as symbolic of black South Africa suffering under apartheid. His death highlights the widespread torture many people suffered in police custody then and still do now. The apartheid government denied any responsibility for Biko’s death, until twenty years later, in 1997, when five former police officers acknowledged responsibility for his death of a brain haemorrhage.

Thirty-six years later, stories of police brutality and torture are still being reported across the country: the story of Mozambican Mido Macia being handcuffed and his arms attached to the back of a truck, and later dying in a police cell; the shooting and assault of Andries Tatane, during a protest march in Ficksburg, Free State.

The award winning, Wits Justice project, senior journalist Carolyn Raphaely gave BBC radio an interview, after she broke a story about police brutality. She interviewed six awaiting trial detainees who were suing the Minister of police over the torture they experienced at the hands of the Bloemfontein’s Organised Crime Unit; the story of Ronnie Fakude, a nappy wearing paraplegic fraud accused, who was begging Bloemfontien magistrate Rashid Matthews to grant him bail, brought to light a different kind of torture in police custody. Carolyn’s article quotes a Doctor saying “ keeping sickly awaiting –trial prisoner in jail is a denial of his constitutional rights”.

According to Amanda Dissel of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), during an Institute for Security Studies Conference, “The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has indicated that people are usually more vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment within first few hours of arrest and detention”. 1.6 million people were arrested in the 2011/2012 period in South Africa. Within this period, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) received 232 notifications of deaths in police custody. Of the 232 deaths, 34% were due to injuries sustained in custody.


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

One Response to History of police brutality continues

  1. Lerato says:

    Police brutality is a real problem in our country and the bigger problem is government turning a blind eye.

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