South Africa: Police Services Spotlight a Failing Democracy
A spotlight on the South African Police Services (SAP) reveals a crucial element of the failing democracy within South Africa. The publicized violence and cruelty by members of the SAP has cast a shadow of abuse of power within their jurisdiction.
Untold reports of incidents of cruelty and mismanagement by members of the force keep the dark secrets of a system that is failing. The democracy of South Africa will not develop into a prominent place in the world order while the corruption and ghastly deeds continue to spiral out of control
During April 2012, a 48-year-old man was arrested for being drunk in public. He was taken to a local police station and detained in a holding cell with eight other detainees. An argument ensued between him and two of the detainees. He died from the injuries sustained from the assault while in the cell. Two of the detainees, apparently also arrested for drinking in public, admitted that an argument had ensued. They now face a murder charge.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners provides in Article 9(2) that:
“where detained persons are kept together, they must be carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions, and there must be regular supervision by night.”
The fact that the police do not adhere to the set rules for treatment of detained prisoners points to neglect and blatant disregard of people, whether prisoners or not.
An international outrage over the death and disgusting abuse of a taxi driver in a display of police brutality caused a flurry of media reports. A Daveyton (East of Johannesburg) taxi driver, who allegedly caused an obstruction to traffic with his minibus, became embattled in an argument with police officials. The police handcuffed the man to the back of a police vehicle. A large crowd of onlookers yelled at the police for the shocking disrespect and abuse shown to this human being. The police ignored the public outcries and continued to persecute this man. His body was dragged along the tarmac roads as the police car drove off. He died in custody two hours later. There were reports that he was assaulted in the holding cell. The cause of his death was revealed to be internal bleeding from injuries he sustained to the head and upper abdomen.
This shocking story of police brutality saw the spotlight when it went viral on the internet and caused a serious human rights argument within the structures of the failing democracy of South Africa.
The South African Police Union said this video “tarnished the good name of the police force” who works extremely hard to serve the country. President Jacob Zuma commented on this event and described this action as horrific, disturbing and offensive.
The illegal use of force and brutality occurs every day and is a common occurrence, often directed at vulnerable people. The police want to hurt victims of crime. They want to instill fear and enforce their power from behind the badge. It is now established that civil claims against the police have escalated during the last three years due to the fact of brutality and assertive behavior. The police are told to show no mercy, shoot to kill, and take no-nonsense. It is now their opinion that they have every right to inflict the brutal treatment given to prisoners, without being lambasted as cruel.
Under the Nelson Mandela rule, the task of de-militarizing the police began. More recently under the Jacob Zuma control, the policing has returned to take a tougher stance. The police continually insist that over 100 officers are killed annually during the line of duty. Reports have revealed that more than 500 civilians are tortured, brutally treated and killed by police each year.
The cruelty and nasty inhuman treatment of victims of crime remains an issue that has not seen any legal progress being made. The government had done little to spotlight this problem with the police forces which is spiraling out of control. In South Africa, the failing democracy cries out for a return to normalcy while the forces of the SAP continue to pull the country into turmoil.
By Laura Oneale