All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

South African Police: Authorities or Vigilantes?

I recently read an article about reports police abuse in South Africa. The article, from UK newspaper - The Guardian, used a website called South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to show a number of violations of people's rights by South African Police.

Within a week of each other two constables appeared in court facing charges of rape. The first appeared on February 21, where it has been reported that he raped his former girlfriend after driving her and some of friends home from a tavern. They were using a state vehicle and after dropping off the friends, the victim was let outside the vehicle to pee. Allegedly there was "a chase", and afterwards the victim was assaulted, raped, and was threatened with death when she refused to get back in the car.

The second victim had been arguing with her sister prior to the police being called. The police handcuffed and brought the woman to a field where the constable allegedly raped her. The accused is out on bail for R1,500, or £150 ($225).

These are only the start of a long list of horrible actions that include beatings, dragging of prisoners behind cars, and many suspicious deaths of those in custody. While such instances have been reported by sources such as South Africa's Daily Sun, there doesn't seem to be much accountability for these kinds of actions. The national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, used a statement to say that she "strongly condemned" such actions (in reference to the man being dragged by a car), but this seems to be a weak approach. It seems that should be more outrage or accountability. Not just 'condemning' but actually doing something; suspending officers and the like. There should be consequences.

The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has asked the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, to investigate into a specific instance of police abuse. And while that is a step in the right direction it hardly seems to cover the scope of all the incidents that are occurring. It would seem that both Phiyega and Mthethwa need to take a more general investigative approach and institute some measures of accountability towards South Africa's police force. Otherwise how are the police any better than the thugs and criminals they are supposed to protect the people from?

You can see the full article in The Guardian here.
You can visit IPID's website for more reports and instances of police brutality and abuse here.

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