HOLDING THE CONSTITUTION IN CONTEMPT : POLICE TORTURE IN A CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY

On 8 May 2016 South Africa celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Constitutional Court’s endorsement of the country’s constitution, the cornerstone of which is human dignity and human rights. The imperative to safeguard these rights was illustrated with a timely reminder of the gross abuses of the apartheid past with the reopening of investigations into the 1987 death of struggle hero Ashley Kriel. Security policeman Jeffrey Benzien who was granted TRC amnesty for Kriel’s death attained notoriety by demonstrating the ‘wet bag’ torture method he and his colleagues routinely used. Shamefully, despite the Constitution, torture and abuse at the hands of the police has continued and is again becoming routine. ‘Tubing’, in which the plastic bag (not necessarily wet) is used to induce near asphyxiation, remains a favoured method – probably because it leaves fewer traces – though it is often combined with other abuse. The consequences of tubing are extremely serious, ranging from death by suffocation to severe and lasting physical and psychological problems. SAPS management and their political bosses appear to hold the Prevention and Combating of the Torture of Persons Act of 2013 in contempt. Not only do they not take steps to stop abuse and punish abusers, but they may even obstruct efforts to take action against them. IPID seems not to treat torture with the seriousness the Constitution demands. It fails to act swiftly against perpetrators, and its investigative work is frequently shoddy, so the lives of victims are further jeopardised. By way of illustration, the following cases are drawn from the files of the KZN Monitor.
The abuse suffered by Mr M in a rural area near Mandeni one night in 2010 is typical of the modus operandi of the perpetrators. A large group of men in police uniforms lacking identification kicked open his house door, assaulted him badly and tubed him, causing him to lose consciousness. When he came round Mr M, who had taken early retirement from the SAPS, immediately reported the incident to his former colleagues and sought medical assistance. Some of his neighbours suffered similar abuse that night. Mr M was assisted by a former colleague and the unit responsible was traced through their vehicles. The colleague worked hard to obtain information from the unit commander (POP) about the members on duty at the time so that an ID parade could be held. No cooperation from the commanding officer of the unit was forthcoming. Almost a year later Mr M heard that those responsible were planning to kill him for pursuing the matter and took additional precautions about his safety. No one was ever charged.
In some cases reported to IPID, such as abuses in the Umzimkhulu area in 2012, investigators have also been stonewalled by management of the unit concerned (TRT), resulting in ID parades not being arranged, or members not turning up for them when they were. In those cases, IPID recommended disciplinary action against two members but the recommendation was ignored by provincial management, despite IPID legislation making it compulsory for it to implement recommendations.
More recently, Mr V, a resident of one of the many shack areas in Durban, was viciously assaulted and tubed by a policeman sitting astride him in the manner demonstrated by Benzien after police kicked his door open in the middle of the night. Available evidence points to complicity between the police and a councillor widely accused of corruption seeking to evict Mr V from the area. At least one other neighbour had been similarly abused. Mr V was warned his life would be in danger if he returned to his home. The IPID investigation drags on with little in the way of progress.
Torture by police members – especially tubing – has been a conspicuous feature of the violence which has wracked Glebelands hostel for the past two years, with the first victim, Mr Fica, dying while being tortured. Of at least eleven incidents reported, only three cases were opened, one by a man who was murdered months later. Other victims, including a woman who was tubed, are too terrified to do so. Among those implicated in this torture are members of Umlazi SAPS, including CIS (crime intelligence), and POP members.
Glebelands resident Richard Nzama* has suffered extreme abuse at the hands of the police, compounded by his treatment by Umlazi prosecutorial services and IPID. Having been injured in one attempt on his life, and further traumatised by the murders of close hostel associates, fears for his safety led human rights defenders to ask SAPS management to ensure his safety. Shortly thereafter, in July 2015, he was arrested and subject to particularly brutal torture – including tubing – which damaged his sight, hearing, and teeth. Monitors who had been alerted contacted IPID and arranged emergency medical treatment. Nzama was charged with attempted murder but when he appeared in court, a visibly broken man with his neck in a brace, the prosecutor not only denied he had been tortured, but behaved in an aggressive manner towards him. He thus violated the Torture Act since any public official who is aware of torture and does not report it acquiesces and can be found guilty of it. Bail was initially denied and the magistrate’s court order that Nzama receive appropriate medical attention was ignored by the police. When he was given bail he faced further threats from armed men and the cousin who assisted him with the bail address was assassinated in the hostel. Another cousin was assaulted and tubed by the police. Despite charges having been withdrawn against Nzama police implicated in his torture were looking for him during a recent Glebelands raid, apparently unlawfully.
Given what has happened to Nzama and other Glebelands residents who have been tortured and assaulted by the police in the past 26 months, many residents living in fear of their lives from thugs are now terrified of the police, believing that they will be tortured if their rooms are raided, or if they are arrested or questioned.
Nzama provided the name of the unit and one of the members responsible for his torture to IPID shortly after his detention, and subsequently provided far more detail to them. Almost ten months later no ID parade has been held and, to Nzama’s knowledge, no one has been arrested. IPID’s failure to take prompt action is further endangering Mr Nzama’s life and wellbeing.
Torture is not permitted under any circumstances. The Constitution commands the State to ‘respect, protect, promote and fulfil’ the Bill of Rights (Sec 7.2). By acquiescing to the use of torture by the organ of state charged with providing safety and security the State is holding the Constitution (and the United Nations Treaty to which it is a signatory) in contempt. Is this the liberation for which Ashley Kriel and countless thousands of his comrades died at the hands of apartheid killers?
*Richard Nzama has given permission for his name to be used because he thinks public exposure may provide a measure of protection from death linked to police who tortured him.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONSTITUTION IS TWENTY YEARS OLD – BUT WHERE IS OUR GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS?

As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our Constitution, the government’s cavalier disregard for the rule of law suggests no real commitment to the human rights which are its cornerstone. A recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment confirmed that its failure in June 2015 to arrest Sudanese President Omar-al-Bashir, who faces genocide and war crimes charges, was a breach of its international obligations and inconsistent with South African law. Small wonder that the organ of state primarily charged with upholding the law – the police – regularly break it by inflicting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on people, in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act of 2013. Justice is denied to most victims of police abuse and of other crimes for the criminal justice system is in a state of disarray because of political interference. These abuses take place in a context in which a host of other rights – including to decent shelter and to health – are subverted to the ends of politics and personal enrichment. At the heart of this disregard for the Constitution lies the conflation of political party interests and those of the state.
The SAPS is at the forefront of abuse. There are many police members who strive diligently to give of their best, often without due recognition of reward. Unfortunately there are also too many who are incompetent, brutal and corrupt who are permitted to carry on their abusive behaviour with impunity and may be rewarded with promotion. It is SAPS management and their political bosses who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of power – endemic assault, torture and malicious arrest – by their subordinates. Tubing (near suffocation with a plastic bag which may result in death) is widespread*. Torturers have serious psychological problems and should never be allowed to remain in positions in which they have power over other people; however there has been no public condemnation of such aberrations by management or ministers, nor evidence of any constructive steps to deal with perpetrators. While that is IPID’s function this Directorate, reporting to the Minister of Police, has been rendered dysfunctional by continued political interference. Eight months after N was brutally beaten and tubed by police members he identified, and corroborative medical evidence submitted, none of the members involved have been arrested and charged. Unsurprisingly victims have little confidence in IPID. Many (including a woman tubed in Glebelands) are too scared to report abuse. Marikana should have made it abundantly clear that this Directorate must be removed from the control of the minister, and report to an independent board. Malicious arrests are another form of police abuse, especially if bail is denied, for detainees may be subject to appalling prison conditions, denied ARV treatment, and lose their jobs, only to have charges withdrawn. This problem is linked to pressure on the police to effect arrests – rather than to secure convictions – another symptom of extremely poor policing. Nor are prosecutors necessarily blameless : Malicious arrests are prevalent in the Umlazi policing area and reportedly prosecutors allow such cases to clog up court rolls, instead of checking dockets for evidence, and guiding police investigations.
The vast majority of victims of these abuses are poor, black Africans. Despite having three levels of elected representatives they are not, with exceptions, empowered through consultation by, and engagement with, those who claim to represent them. They are used by the state as voting fodder to whom to dispense patronage in the form of housing and social grants. Instead of allowing for true multi-party and apolitical representation elected ward committees may be hijacked by political parties. Voluntary associations are not recognised for their importance in building democracy. In the beleaguered Glebelands hostel committees elected to assist with bed allocation have been disbanded by political decree, and uBunye bamaHostela, a residents’ association which crosses party divides, is sidelined. Representatives of the shack dwellers association, Abahlali baseMjondolo have been persecuted. In eThekwini housing lists – the basis for transparent housing allocation – have been replaced by a system favouring those most in need. Often it is the local councillor (who should have no role in allocation) is the one who decides on the need, on the basis of party affiliation. Even social workers’ responses and reports may be influenced by councillors. Some council flats earmarked for the poor are occupied by well paid councillors. Old established NPOs serving primarily the poor battle to survive because of incompetence by the Department of Social Development which does not pay subsidies timeously. SANCA, which pioneered rehabilitation for alcohol and drug addicts, is battling to stay open, but the poor have no access to private therapists. While the government steams ahead with plans for a National Health insurance scheme its own hospitals cannot cope with existing demands because of widespread maladministration. Amidst allegations of gross irregularities regarding procurement and servicing of radiological equipment, the lives of cancer patients, some of whom wait months for appointments, are at serious risk – for which the Department must bear full responsibility.
Much of the rhetoric about racism misses the point, as do the violent protests over symbols of colonialism. In twenty two years there has been no real transformation of the bedrock structures of colonialism : Under-developed rural reserve areas administered by colonially transformed traditional leaders and the accommodation of migrants in degrading urban hostels. The politically-linked carnage in Glebelands hostel in Durban, which has cost an estimated 57 lives in two years, is rooted in the failure of the municipality and the province to change these apartheid relics into decent accommodation for poor families and administer them properly. It is yet another manifestation of political expediency triumphing over transparent, democratic governance. The rural poor continue to stream into town because most rural areas remain as underdeveloped as they were under apartheid. Polemics about colonial land dispossession cloak ongoing deprivation of, and threats to, indigenous land rights in rural areas by organs of state and mining companies operating with black empowerment partners.
There are indeed still two South Africas (but racial divisions are increasingly blurred) and the gulf between them remains wide. It is those previously disadvantaged who are still poor and powerlessness who continue to suffer when their government ignores or breaches its constitutional obligations. It is easy, but short-sighted, for the more privileged to ignore the plight of the ‘other half’ – but if we do not all take a stand to defend our Constitution we are all at risk if democracy and the rule of law – which go together – are further eroded.
*KZN Monitor has assisted many victims of tubing and other brutal assaults by SAPS members in Durban and different areas of the province

MARIKANA : THE CASE FOR POLITICAL CULPABILITY

Despite its inevitable limitations the Farlam Commision report, when linked to the broader policing context, and ministerial interference in the post massacre work of IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) points to political culpability for the death of 34 people. Commissions make findings based on evidence placed before them and in this case the evidence was corrupted by systematic concealment and falsification by police management. Furthermore, its initial mandate to investigate the role of the Department of Mineral Resources or any other government department was subsequently withdrawn.
The findings against the police are damning : The tragic events of 16 August 2012 were a direct consequence of the ‘inexplicable’ decision of Maj Gen Mbombo, the North West Provincial Commissioner, endorsed by the National Commissioner and other senior management members at a secret meeting held late on the eve of the massacre. While the National Commissioner must bear responsibility for what happened it is essential to look beyond her role at reasons for Mbombo’s decision. The then Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, is also liable by virtue of his office. Marikana was yet an example of all that is wrong with policing, a state of affairs for which successive executive members of government and commissioners should share responsibility – including the politicisation and re- militarisation of policing, the promotion of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy (of which the then Minister for Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, was an early proponent), the rewarding of incompetence with promotions, and their failure act against systemic police brutality.
The case against the police
In the run up to the killings of 16 August ten people (miners, security personnel and police) had been murdered during an unprotected strike at Lomnin. Large groups of strikers, armed with ’traditional’ weapons regularly gathered on small hills (koppies) demanding that mine management meet with them about their grievances. Senior police members with experience in crowd management, together with mine security, were in the process of implementing a ‘minimal risk’ plan to persuade the miners to disarm and disperse. Without consulting with these members Mbombo, lacking any requisite experience, took the sudden decision to change to a ‘tactical’ option to forcibly disarm, disperse and arrest the miners on 16 August (D Day). The decision was not dependent on there being any escalation in the violence. Two senior police members – Maj General Annandale – the Head of Special Operations from SAPS Headquarters, and Maj General Mpembe – warned her of the danger of bloodshed, and Annandale insisted that an entry about the danger be made in the Occurrence Book.
There was no legal basis for the action which followed: In addition to international norms, domestic laws stipulate that police should use minimal force, and lethal force only as a last resort if lives are endangered. The level of concealment of evidence, and lying by senior members – even to the extent of contradicting each other and themselves – is mind boggling, as was the ignorance of some senior members of policing policy and a crucial standing order (262). Despite deaths being anticipated (four mortuary vans were commissioned and 4 000 additional R5 rounds were ordered) first aid preparations were grossly inadequate, in contradiction to United Nations principles..
With one exception the fatalities occurred in two different places, termed Scene 1 and Scene 2. At scene 1fourteen men died on the spot and three died in hospital after 1327 live rounds of R5 gunfire was unleashed on them. Apart from military assasult weapons being unsuitable for crowd management, the fact that they were on automatic fire was widely condemned, with even a police colonel admitting gross negligence. The firing continued for approximately a minute after first cease fire call. The leading group of strikers would have moved towards the TRT line to escape teargas and stun grenades fired from behind them. Four members of the second group of miners were at such a distance from the TRT they could not have posed a threat to them. Many of the injured appeared shot from behind.
The shooting at Scene 2 (described as koppie 3) occurred fourteen minutes after the first shooting, with fourteen men dying at the scene and three dying in hospital. This shooting occurred despite the police having known about events at scene 1. Chaos reigned at Scene 2, with different units firing towards each other and a complete loss of command and control on the part of the police. Given the police’s garbled and contradictory version of events, interference with the scene of the crime, and the lack of adequate forensic and ballistics evidence the Commission was unable to make a finding and referred the matter for investigation under a senior prosecutor assisted by independent experts.
The vast majority of deaths (and injuries) were caused by R5 automatic fire and although other units (e.g. NIU and POP) were present the Tactical Response Team (TRT) appear the main culprits. Established by the previous Commissioner of Police, the TRT operating in KZN soon acquired a reputation for brutality which had been drawn to the attention of SAPS management months before Marikana,. Some of their activities involved assault, abuse and destruction of property and when IPID attempted to bring the culprits to book TRT management failed to co-operate in the holding of ID parades. Recommendations by IPID that disciplinary proceedings be taken against some members were ignored by the provincial commissioner.
The case against the politicians
The Commission was unable to answer the question of why there had been this inexplicable change of plan because ‘at the highest level’ the police had decided not to provide it with the true version of what happened at the meeting, even to the extent of preparing an inaccurate set of minutes and testifying in support of them. Mysteriously the memory stick recording the meeting had been lost.
What was known (but not initially divulged by the police) was that during ‘extraordinary’ discussions with Lomnin management Mbombo had referred to concerns that management could be seen as capitulating to AMCU (the new union supported by strikers which was in competition with NUM), There were also concerns about the role of Julius Malema, who had been expelled from the ANC, and who seemed to enjoy the confidence of the strikers, to the extent that he might be able to take credit for any breakthroughs made. Mbombo also mentioned that Cyril Ramaphosa – then an ANC NEC member with business interests in Lomnin – had called the Minister of Police, Mthethwa, urging that the police deal with the situation.
Ramaphosa’s subsequent defence was that he was concerned about the loss lives in what he maintained was a ‘purely criminal’ matter. Lacking any prima facie evidence to the contrary, the Commission declared that his intervention was ‘not improper’, or that it would have influenced the SAPS subsequent conduct. Given his own background in trade unionism is does seem strange that Ramaphosa should claim that the matter was purely a criminal one for since the rolling mass action of the early 1990s strikes have usually been accompanied by violence and, in some cases, deaths. Why had he not urged management to meet with miners and to desist from ordering miners to work despite the danger they faced in doing so (for which the Commission made an adverse finding against Lomnin)? Did he not know about the squalid living conditions, and that Lomnin had failed to honour an agreement with the Department of Mineral Resources to build 5 000 houses for miners? Although the Commission could not make a finding against the Department in terms of its failure to take any action (because of the withdrawal of its mandate) it did recommend further investigation.
Based on his international experience Dutch policing expert Kees de Rover told the Commission it was likely that, given the economic and political ramifications of what was happening at Marikana the police would be guided by the executive in reaching such a decision (and he indicated that the two senior SAPS members who emerged with more credibility during the hearing than their colleagues – agreed with him). There was, of course, no evidence to support this view given the manufactured paucity thereof. The Commission was thus unable to make a finding against Minister Mthethwa.
Experience in working on policing issues for the past twenty five years supports de Rover’s position that the directive came from the executive. There is political interference in policing at all levels of government which is linked to the conflation of the interests of the governing political party and those of the state – which should, in a democracy, be kept separate. Leaving aside the intervention by Ramaphosa, events at Marikana posed a problem for the ANC itself because an AMCU victory might further erode support for NUM – an important component of its Alliance partner COSATU – and any credibility Malema earned would be at the expense of his erstwhile party. Given political interventions in policing, including the deployment of two party heavyweights as commissioners, how likely is it that Phiyega would have been appointed to her position had she not been pliable enough to take political instructions? Informed sources made this observation when she was appointed as National Commission.
Executive members of government also played a crucial role in covering up after the event. The Commission berates IPID for its lack of independence, but that independence exists only on paper for it relies on SAPS crime scene management and ballistics. However, it does on occasion use private pathologists – which is often essential because there are insufficient specialists at state facilities due to the the disastrous handling of forensic mortuary services by the Department of Health. Shortly after the massacre an inter-ministerial committee ordered the bodies of the victims to be removed to a state facility some distance away, and for all 34 post mortems to be completed within two days. Nor were X-rays of the bodies made available to the doctors tasked with performing the rushed autopsies. The use of radiography equipment is a crucial diagnostic tool when making autopsy findings on the bodies of shooting victims. It is not surprising that the Commission was left in the dark about events at Scene 2 – and that there was disagreement between one of the doctors working under extreme pressure and an independent expert about the instrument used to kill one of the victims.
The way forward
Six weeks after the release of the Farlam report the focus is on whether the prime scapegoat, National Commissioner Phiyega, will bite the bullet of redeployment (or a golden handshake) – and probably be replaced with another political deployee. Despite the calls by the Commission for de-militarisation the military ranks remain, as does the anti-constitutional policing culture which spawned the Marikana excesses, including routine brutality and torture.
On 22 July, Glebelands resident Richard Nzama – who was already in a traumatised state because he had been shot and injured some months before, and faced constant death threats –was brutally tortured. He was tubed (near suffocation), and sustained injuries to different parts of his body, including his ear, eye, neck and teeth (which were loosened). This torture apparently took place with a view to the police forcing him to make a statement. The police also instructed him to run away – a classic excuse used by the SAPS to kill detainees. A court order that he receive medical treatment, including psychiatric, in the hospital at Westville prison while detained there, and be kept on his own for safety reasons, was ignored by the police, whose job it is to organise medical treatment for awaiting trial prisoners. Only after various interventions to senior police and prison management members did he receive medical treatment almost two weeks after admission – from the doctor who treats all the prisoners beaten by the police, he said.
Only when policing is de-politicised and appointments are made on merit – and when IPID is removed from the control of the police, given the resources to be independent, and reports to an independent board and not the Minister of Police – is our unconstitutional policing culture likely to start a slow and long overdue change. There is no sign of any political will to make such changes.

ASSASSINATION AT UMLAZI COURT : POLICING HEADS MUST ROLL

Glebelands resident Sipho Ndovela, a father of eight whose family lives in the impoverished Eastern Cape, was shot dead just outside the Umlazi court at about 11h00 this morning. The deceased was a key witness in a murder case set for trial in the High Court. His testimony would have implicated the alleged key warlord and extortionist in the hostel complex, linked to countless attacks and many of the estimated 25 deaths in the hostel during the past year – a warlord who appears to enjoy police protection and possibly assistance with weapons.. When Ndovela took the brave step of coming forward as a witness to the murder of Fikile Siyephu in February – an incident in which he was injured – the investigating officer (who was himself implicated in the torturing of a roman by ‘tubing’ her) effectively interfered with the course of justice by telling him to omit mention of the role of the warlord in his sworn statement because it was not relevant. Following legal advice Ndovela was to make a supplementary statement to the Umlazi police this afternoon, but was killed before he could do so. He had received threats that he would ‘not see court’ and there had already been one attempt to kill him. He was shot dead, execution style, as he stepped outside to either make or take a telephone call (he was in court facing charges relating to a brawl in a tavern in 2014). The serious danger to his life had been communicated to the police at all levels, and to the MEC. Given all the warnings police management and the MEC’s office have had, and the information which has been made available in the public arena, there is no excuse whatsoever for failing to protect potential victims. Heads must roll.
Since early 2014 human rights defender Vanessa Burger has meticulously documented incidents of violence in Glebelands, and the plight of those targeted by thugs; these victims include women with Protection Orders who have not been assisted by the police. She has put out numerous media statements, including a recent one drawing attention to the plight of witnesses – including Ndovela – who are under threat. The Daily News recently gave extensive coverage to their plight.
In 2014 letters were sent to Umlazi and Provincial management about the alleged collusion between thus and police members, torture by police members, and the presence of police issue weapon/s and ammunition by the thugs. These letters were copied to, among others, the MEC. There was no response. The killings continued, with no evidence of any fundamental steps having been taken to protect Glebelands residents, despite public announcements about almost R10 million being spent for security at the complex. As attacks continued and it was clear that the lives of certain witnesses, including Ndovela’s were in grave danger, an urgent letter was addressed to Umlazi Cluster and Station management, as well as the Provincial Commissioner and the MEC, on 21 April, pointing out their failure to act on previous letters and asking a number of public interest questions. The danger posed to witnesses – including Sipho Ndovela – was stressed, together with a request to ensure their safety. They were also advised in this letter that
Your police will be held responsible should any harm befall them since
you have all the means at our disposal to take preventive action.
This letter elicited no reponse, except from IPID who immediately requested the police to follow up on the complaints and report back to the writer. Three weeks letter there has been no report back.
Umlazi SAPS management has failed in its constitutional mandate to prevent crime and to protect the people at Glebelands, It must be replaced forthwith.
Nor can provincial management claim ignorance, given the letters copied to it and the fact that IPID too referred the Monitor’s complaint to provincial management – raising further questions about the fitness of the Provincial Commissioner to hold office. The buck stops with the MEC, who has also been apprised of the situation in Glebelands through letters copied to his office but appears to have done nothing to ensure that extremely serious Umlazi policing problems are addressed. If South Africa were truly a democracy, the honourable thing to do would be for him to resign, or at least take responsibility for the conduct of the provincial and Umlazi police. However, given the general lack of accountability, and sheer arrogance, of politicians holding important positions, that seems unlikely. Eight more poor children have joined the dozens already left fatherless because of the failure to deal ensure that Umlazi police fulfil their Constitutional mandate. Thousands of people died in this province in the cause of the liberation which gave these same politicians their positions – but liberation is a hollow victory for those who continue to die because the ANC controlled police collude with criminals.

NO FREEDOM FROM FEAR : REFLECTIONS ON FREEDOM DAY 2015

‘Now Everyone is Afraid’, the title of a 1988 book about abuses by the apartheid police and their surrogates, is an appropriate description of South Africa twenty one years after the first democratic elections. Democracy has not banished fear – it is everywhere. Fear of the police is still widespread, especially among victims of continuing police abuse, including torture. Fear of violent crime is endemic, and threat and intimidation is rife, especially (but not exclusively) in poorer communities. Whether protests are about service delivery or the removal of colonial symbols the tactics used are either overtly violent or intimidatory. Like tantrums thrown by children trying to get their own way the threat of violence is used instead of the normal democratic options of showing displeasure through the ballot box and reasoned debate. As one conscientious police member (and there are many) aptly put it, when the violence against foreigners erupted, ‘There is no law’ Despite our outstanding Constitution, the laws which should be giving it teeth are constantly broken with impunity. The lawlessness is a consequence of serious problems with the criminal justice system, especially with policing. Violence, however, has far deeper roots, and is inherent in the essentially unchanged structure of our country since 1994, including its impoverished and underdeveloped rural areas and squalid, badly policed urban hostels. The current state of near anarchy, coupled with structural inequality and a growing culture of secrecy and unaccountability on the part of government has extremely serious consequences for what is essentially as nascent – and fragile democracy.
Why everyone is afraid
Crime, fuelled by factors such as powerless, prison gangs and criminal syndicates, long predates democracy (and the arrival of Nigerians) in South Africa. It has flourished since 1994, becoming an overt presence, and spreading fear, in the formerly ‘whites only’ parts of the country. Those who can afford it rely on private security services to safeguard their homes. Women and children live in fear of rape. All travellers run the gauntlet of potential hijacking, rock throwing and smash-and-grab thugs (not to mention criminal drivers). However, the safety of those living in apartheid’s townships and rural reserves – and relying on taxi transport – is the most precarious (as evidenced by murder statistics) Historically, these areas bore the brunt of poor policing and, while there has been improvement in some places (depending on the quality of station management), rural areas remain grossly under-resourced and stations often too far apart to offer adequate protection to all.
The policing of large, colonial era hostel complexes is particularly problematic, especially when police members themselves are complicit when serious violent crimes are committed, as in Glebelands hostel The climate of fear is palpable, with men, women and children – including witnesses in court cases – living under constant threat of attack from thugs protected by police.
Many taxi operators, too, fear violence, with some spending much of their lives in hiding. In the volatileMaphumulo/KwaDukuza/Mandini areas the ongoing conflict is linked to alleged irregularity in the issuing of permits, and internal struggles linked to the use of known hit men and certain police members.. Marandi Mthethwa, one of those harassed by members of the Cato Manor ‘hit squad’ is the latest victim, and was buried on Freedom Day. His former colleague, Dalisu Sangweni was assassinated at his Outer West home in March, a month after his colleague Charles Khuzwayo met a similar fate. Both attacks appear linked to their investigations into alleged SANTACO (the government taxi body) corruption, and their unsuccessful attempts to extract public interest information from eThekwini Transport Department..
A Melmoth a church minister and community leader is also living under threat of death following an inaccurate, inflammatory and defamatory media article in a Zulu language paper – which appears linked to his working with community members opposed to open cast iron ore mining by a huge international mining conglomerate in the area. .
Short and long term solutions to freedom from fear
Without an effective criminal justice system crime will continue to thrive. The democratic government’s handling of policing has been little short of disastrous since it assumed office. In the name of affirmative action it rewarded incompetence and, with some exceptions, sidelined competence. Like the NPA and intelligence services policing, has deteriorated even further during the past few years as a result of increased political interference. It is only when political meddling ceases and all appointments to management are made on the basis of merit – proven competence and integrity -, that a start can be made to remedying the glaring wrongs of the criminal justice system. There is no indication that this will happen.
In 21 years virtually nothing has done to break the cycle of violence rooted in the past to which succeeding generations of children remain subject. Despite huge funding, there is virtually no true development in the impoverished rural labour reservoirs of the former Bantustans. Traditional leadership continues to jeopardise land security in many areas, and unemployment in the agricultural sector has shrunk considerably, so migration to urban areas continues. Migrants often end up in or around hostels which have historically been known for high levels of violence which scar children for life. Children continue to suffer violence at home and school, and often lack the presence of appropriate male role models in their lives. Those who grow up in such circumstances perpetuate the cycle of violence – and violence thrives in an environment of powerlessness, since it gives those who use it a sense of power. Simply having a vote does not in itself empower people, especially if they are badly educated, poor, and the recipients of patronage rather than being actively involved in decisions about their own lives.
The government has had 21 years to change the colonial era structure of society, and the bantu education legacy and it must take responsibility for not having done so. If it does not have the will to make changes the culture of violence and fear will remain with us for the foreseeable future, thwarting progress to true democracy, and threatening the existing order.

Social Disservice Glebelands’ women – faceless victims of the ongoing violence

Thandazile* is twenty-nine, unemployed and has four children including a nine-month-old baby. She was one of the dozens of women violently evicted by heavily armed men at Glebelands Hostel last year. Her partner was a block committee member – the hostel structure formerly responsible for room allocation, most of whose members’ names reportedly appear on a ‘hit list’, seemingly used by thugs and police alike. Twenty-one block committee members or their associates are now dead.

Thandazile was not at home when they came for her partner, but her six-year-old son was. The terrible violence witnessed by this young child has affected his temperament and schooling. Like many other Glebelands children, he is believed to be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

After fleeing her home, Thandazile settled at a nearby informal settlement. However, with her partner now in hiding, homeless, now unemployed and unable to support her, she could not afford the R500 monthly shack rental on an income of only R930 – the child grants she received for her children. The area was also extremely unsafe.

When Thandazile returned to Glebelands to plead with the hostel superintendent for help with accommodation, she was turned away. She had lost all her possessions during the eviction and her baby was then two months old. Eventually Thandazile found shelter in a derelict building without electricity, water or sanitation. She cannot look for work because she must protect her children. Her family live in constant fear after a man tried to gain access to her room. Her children’s screams luckily drove him away. This time. The area is frequently used by Glebelands’ killers for target practice.

Thandazile’s children’s birth certificates and school uniforms were stolen from the room last year. The Department of Home Affairs charges R20 per copy, so duplicate birth certificates are a luxury she simply cannot afford. To gain admission to a place of safety, criteria demand that Thandazile must provide a police case number, copies of her children’s birth certificates and be able to prove her situation is likely to improve after a limited stay at a shelter. However she fears reprisals if she lays charges against those who evicted her, and after a female hostel resident was tortured by police last year, Thandazile is now as fearful of the police as she is of those who evicted her.

Sources claim the instigator of the violence is a police informer, formerly of KwaMashu Hostel, criminally connected to Jacobs Hostel, with a fake SAPS identity card, political affiliations and a weakness for truckjacking. He is rumoured to be charging protection money and after each hostel hit, has reportedly splashed out on new furniture or a new car. After the murder of Vusi Ngema – a close associate of the local ward councilor in July last year – it was alleged this individual installed hit squad members from Mandeni – Ngema’s home town – at Block C. These men are suspected of luring Phumlani Ndlovu – an associate of the block committee members – to his death in an ambush early this year for which it seems no arrests have been made. The same individual is witnessed regularly in the company of a Durban Central SAPS officer who, it has been suggested, may have supplied the military issue heavy caliber firearm used frequently during the 2014 violence. The names and addresses of these individuals are well known to residents, community leaders and organizations that have been assisting the hostel dwellers. So too are the names of the Umlazi SAPS officers with whom these men allegedly associate, and who have been implicated in incidents of torture and widely condemned for their reported collusion and utter failure to investigate and take effective action against perpetrators of the violence.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Senzo Mchunu, failed to acknowledge the social impact of the ongoing violence, displacements, dispossession, psychological trauma and highly questionable police conduct when he declared unilateral peace at a mass community meeting at Glebelands on 28 September 2014. The SAPS has since blamed its poor arrest- and even worse -conviction rate on residents’ reluctance to “work hand in hand with the police”. After numerous reports of police torture and brutality, collusion and questionable conduct, such statements are simply disingenuous and unhelpful.

At a meeting convened by the Commission for Gender Equality on 14 October last year, a detailed needs analysis was presented regarding the psychological and socioeconomic impact of the Glebelands violence on vulnerable members of the community – particularly the unemployed, women and children. At the time, Department of Social Development provincial representatives undertook to establish a task team comprising of all relevant departmental stakeholders in order to assist vulnerable residents. Since this meeting, other than the provision of a few food parcels to a handful of women, the DSD has been noticeable by its absence throughout the ongoing Glebelands crisis.

At the recent Social Work Indaba held at Durban’s ICC, the DSD minister expressed “the need to regenerate the social work practice to make it relevant to current issues facing South African society.” Where could be more “relevant to current issues” than to begin the “regeneration of the social work practice”, with the women of Glebelands Hostel? But that would be expecting too much of a department that routinely neglects the needs of its staff and the public. Durban’s involvement in ‘stakeholder engagement forums’ such as the Rockefeller Foundation-funded “100 Resilient Cities Programme”, is also deeply ironic when it is residents’ ‘resilience’ that is needed against the onslaught of the state.

Hostel block committee structures must be reinstated to ensure community stability; local and provincial leaders must prioritise human life over political power struggles; the police must perform there duties without fear or favour; and the DSD must enable its staff to undertake meaningful intervention at Glebelands. Nothing less will end the misery for Thandazile, her young family, and Glebelands’ women for whom social justice, gender equality, and human and constitutional rights are parodied in the rhetoric and dishonesty, which has, to date, signified the government’s sole response to ending the hostel violence.

*Thandazile’s real name has been withheld to protect her identity

THIS JOINT STATEMENT WAS ISSUED TO THE PRESS BY KZN MONITOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER VANESSA BURGER

WHY TARGET COLONIAL SYMBOLS WHEN THE STRUCTURES OF COLONIALISM LIVE ON?

There is a certain irony to the preoccupation with symbols of the past – especially the statue of arch imperialist Cecil John Rhodes – when colonial-cum-apartheid policies remain in place. The land dispossession with which Rhodes is associated was initiated b
ecause of the demand for vast amounts of cheap labour for the mines; it also served the purpose of destroying the black peasantry which competed successfully with expanding white commercial farming. Together with labour migrancy and the accompanying controls over black movement went single sex hostels and the virtual destruction of black family life. Despite the current land reform rhetoric the land rights of poor rural residents are under serious threat – and despite some cosmetic changes the colonial system of indirect rule through chiefs remains in place and retards the development of democracy. The type of gross abuse of power associated with the apartheid police, including the use of torture, flourishes. Where are the priorities of the ‘Rhodes must fall’ brigade? Are lifeless statues more important than the sufferings of the living?
Land rights an government double-speak
The public focus is on government rhetoric about redressing land imbalances and recent legislation has re-opened the land claims process. However, many of the claims s lodged in the 1990s have not yet been settled, and serious allegations of gross incompetence and corruption in the Department responsible for land reform have not been addressed. At the same time, there are very real threats to rural people’s indigenous land rights, especially by the Ingonyama Trust in KZN. This Trust, which was established days before the April 1994 elections, transferred former KwaZulu Bantustan land, and other land earmarked for black occupation, to Zulu king Zwelithini, and a Board administers it on his behalf. It was this Trust which in 2000 awarded a lease to the traditional leader near Mbazwana (northern KZN) to operate a private game lodge – and which failed to intervene when a large area was fenced, denying people access to their homes, to water, and to their subsistence activities. The residential rights of people living in traditional communities are guaranteed by the Protection of Informal Land Rights Act but, according to the Trust, it is now issuing leases for residential rights on this type of land, potentially endangering the rights of existing residents (and earning more income for the Trust, which enjoys a surplus of millions of rand). Leaders claim that most revenues siphoned off from traditional areas do not flow back to benefit communities..
The conduct of chiefs varies considerably, with some ensuring wide community consultation and others abusing their power – including by driving people of their land (with no constructive action taken by government departments). More usually, residents are obliged to pay all sorts of monies to the leadership on various pretexts, and women complain that they are expected to provide sexual favours for some leaders (some of whom have allegedly been implicated in the ukuthwala practice of forced abduction of young women). Babanango residents are up in arms about King Zwelethini’s plans to build a new palace on what they claim is their ancestral land. There are also outstanding land claims in the area, and many who lodged claims in the 1990s are concerned that they may lose out to new claimants. (and rumours abound of Land Reform staff and politicians using the new claim period to take over land to which they are not entitled -such is the mistrust of the land claims process (see land report).
A number of communities in KZN face the threat of removal and/or the degradation of their environment through mining – especially the extension of titanium mining to areas around Mthunzini, the threat of coal mining in the Mfolosi Wilderness area, and the planned open cast iron ore mining around Melmoth, where the Ingonyama Trust Board has reportedly given its permission for the mining. As under apartheid, rural areas remain underdeveloped labour reservoirs, and the mining companies involved in these latest initiatives are multinational conglomerates in partnership with shadowy ‘empowerment’ companies. The exploitation of colonialism continues, augmented by the ‘empowerment’ of selected black partners, many of whom are alleged to be politically well connected.
Hostels and police brutality
While some family accommodation has been built in single sex hostel complexes huge numbers of men, women and children continue to live in overcrowded and often run down single sex hostels. Like the abuses in rural areas, the problems stemming from these colonial structures are compounded by political struggles and corruption. In Glebelands (Umlazi) the abuse of residents is carried out not by the notorious apartheid ‘blackjacks’ but by democracy’s police. At least 21 people have reportedly died in this complex in the past year and countless numbers of residents have been forcibly evicted from their rooms. Democratically elected block structure members and their women folk and children are the primary target of these evictions allegedly carried out by a known thug from KwaMashu hostels and his associates, who then oversee the allocation of beds to others, probably for a fee. This well armed thug is said to enjoy a close relationship with the local, highly unpopular councillor. The blame for this state of affairs lies with the police who should be preventing crime and arresting perpetrators but are instead abusing those targeted for eviction, including by the use of the notorious ‘tubing ‘ torture beloved of the apartheid police (one of the victims was a woman) At the heart of this anarchy lies the complete lack of transparency in bed allocation policy by the municipality with allegations – as in housing allocation – of interference by councillors dispensing political patronage..
Debates about colonial symbols are pertinent, but not if they are hijacked by thuggish behaviour – which, ironically, is replete with the racist rhetoric rooted in the colonialism of which they complain. Surely it is up to universities to insist that debates be properly informed and contextualised. The Roman empire, for example, was a brutal coloniser but do we not continue to enjoy the benefits of its legacy? If the universities simply give in to anarchy, rather than take a stand for orderly and reasoned debate, they may well end up producing a flock of sheep rather than the critical thinkers democracy needs to survive, let alone to thrive.

DYING FOR TRANSPARENCY? : TAXI HITS, THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT AND THE CULTURE OF SECRECY

On the night of Sunday 15 March prominent taxi operator Azarius Dalisu Sangweni was shot dead outside his KwaDabeka home. His assassination followed that of his colleague Charles Khuzwayo, who was shot dead outside of his Pinetown home a month earlier. Both of the deceased were leading members of the Durban West Interim Committee attempting to engage with eThewini municipality to procure documents it had signed with SANTACO (the government funded Taxi Council) about the implementation of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN), known locally as GoDurban. Sangweni had also put his name to a working document titled ‘Alleged maladministration, wasteful and fruitless expenditure’ which, he hoped, would ultimately lead for an investigation into both the Department of Transport and SANTACO by the Public Protector. Among the millions wasted was expenditure on hiring an aeroplane, and associated costs, to advertise the supposed launch of Santaco Airlines – which never materialised. The hits on Sangweni and Khuzwayo followed the same pattern, including insofar as they occurred after they had attended meetings at nearby Kranskloof hostel. There are now serious concerns for the safety of associates of the deceased who were working to demand transparency and accountability from government departments, including members of the Durban West Interim Committee , and the Taxi Alliance, whose names are known to KZN Monitor but are being withheld at their request.

The much publicised GoTransport system involving new bus and train networks is forging ahead, with reports of infrastructural development such as new depots for Rea Vaya buse, including at Pinetown and Inanda. This new transport system is financed by the National Treasury, and involves collaboration between different levels of government (national, provincial and local). This new system is clearly going to have a major impact on taxi services in urban areas, with reports that fewer people are using this mode of transport at Inanda since the introduction of new rail and bus links. Despite the Thekwini municipality claiming that there has been full stakeholder engagement, and that the taxi leadership has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with city leaders about participation, most taxi operators do not know what the terms of the agreement are. What they suspect is happening is that taxi operations will be confined to areas outside of wherever this national transport policy is being implemented, and that they will simply drop off passengers at designated urban points.

Not all taxi associations and operators are affiliated with SANTACO and, within that government structure, communication between leadership and those who vote their representatives into office is said to be poor. Despite the huge expenditure, even members were not told about the Santaco Airline fiasco, and nor did the Department provide information; it was left to a KZN newspaper to uncover the truth of what had happened. The government will apparently only deal with SANTACO, and will not provide information to other taxi bodies except through their lawyers.. Where is democracy, transparency and accountability to the taxpayers, including the late Sangweni and Khuzwayo, who pay the salaries of the Department of Transport, and finance SANTACO ?

When a promised presentation by SANTACO did not materialise, Sangweni was among those whose signatures were on letters to the municipality requesting permission to march and hand over a memorandum about their demands during latter 2014, and the request to the eThekwini Transport Authority for a copy of the memorandum it had signed with SANTACO. Initially he and his associates were told that they could collect a copy but, on their return, they were allegedly told that SANTACO had threatened to sue if they released the memorandum because there were ‘secrecy clauses’

This conduct by the Department of Transport and its extension, SANTACO, and the eThekwini municipality is yet another manifestation of a growing culture of authoritarianism and secrecy, which is the antithesis of the spirit of the Constitution. It must not be allowed to continue. The public, including taxi operators, must have access to whatever documentation has been signed between the municipality and SANTACO.

It seems that the quest for their constitutional right to transparency may have killed Sangweni and Khuzwayo. According to a former associate, he had withdrawn from the process of demanding accountability after he received a tip off that his life was in danger if he ‘fought with the government’ about its policy. These chilling words have serious implications for the safety of those working with Sangweni. His funeral is on Human Rights Day -the day celebrating the rights for which he died.

SAY NO TO CELE S A POLICE SERVICES REINSTATEMENT AND NO TO CONTINUING CADRE DEPLOYMENT

Those calling for the reinstatement of Bheki Cele as National SAPS Commissioner seem not understand the nature of the crisis in policing, how it impacts upon cime, and the type of remedial action which is sorely needed, No matter which position he occupies Cele remains a dedicated ANC loyalist. Cadre deployment has proven disastrous and only when the policing reins are handed to well trained, professional police members can the long road to transformation from apartheid-style policing begin..
Cele is a charismatic and populist politician – qualities which he brought to the SAPS; hence, no doubt, the calls for his return. However, popularity is a likely hindrance in implementing a long overdue, ruthless cleanup, including by disciplining and dismissing errant members. The current appalling state of policing is the consequence of twenty years of bungling and political interference..
Shortly before the 1994 elections a senior Nationalist Party representative made a remarkably candid admission: It was impossible to purge the police, he said, because ‘you’d be lucky if you were left with 10% of them’. While it was known that many in the upper echelons were far to the right of de Klerk and had not welcomed his reforms, KZN Monitor research during the 1990s suggested that dismissing 90% of police as beyond redemption was a gross exaggeration. The problem lay with the ultra-conservative, corrupt nature of much of the management, and the integration of homeland police forces whose training was (with some exceptions) far inferior to that received in the SAP, who had also been used as political foot soldiers. What the research documented in detail in the 1990s in KZN was rampant racism, nepotism, and members (many of them of a ‘ja baas’ mentality) being promoted well beyond their levels of competence in what was essentially tokenism. Many former security police members who had colluded in gross human rights abuses (but never approached the TRC) were promoted to senior positions, and most of the African members promoted in this province were from the former KZP. Many experienced, long serving previously disadvantaged SAP members with clean records were not rewarded with promotion, and left the police. This trend has continued until the present time as policing has lurched from bad to worse. While political dynamics in the 1990s played a part, the ANC, both nationally and provincially, colluded in the travesty of transformation.
From the outset the ANC messed up badly in its approach to policing. Instead of promoting experienced people with clean track records, who were not members of notorious apartheid units such as SANAB and he security police (they were interchangeable), it placed its own cadres within the ranks of the police. At best they were ineffectual, at worst their interventions were disastrous. They did not understand policing culture and were completely out of their depths. Some of them, like Selebi (who had been internationally respected in human rights circles) were, like many of their comrades in government, corrupted by the power that was handed to them. The end result was that policing continued to deteriorate, and specialised units which are at the core of fighting crime – detective services and Crime Intelligence – became increasingly dysfunctional and subverted to serve political ends. At the same time, the good guys – and there are still many of them – risk their lives (often because of corrupt colleagues), without acknowledgement or the reward of promotion. Almost three months ago a letter sent to both national and provincial ministers about detectives who had done sterling work in bringing down levels of violence being completely sidelined did not even get a response, let alone any action It seems that competence counts for nothing in the new SAPS.
Abuse, including torture, and killings by the police continued after 1994, but have escalated in recent years, especially since the message went out to ‘shoot to kill’. Marikana was simply a consequence of a well established pattern of police conduct, entrenched during the Cele tenure. The new unit he established – the TRT (amaberets) – who were well represented at Marikana, are notorious for their brutality. Quite apart from the illegality of their actions, and their gross human rights violations, such conduct does nothing to stem crime. The abuse of suspects can destroy court cases, and, even if those shot are criminals, they should be identified before they kill people, and neutralised by an effective crime intelligence and criminal justice system. Crime pays, and that is why it is rampant – because of the atrocious state of the criminal justice system, starting with the police.
During a recent discussion about policing with a committed ANC cadre (who has good reason to dislike apartheid era policemen) the subject of Johann Booysen’s reinstatement to the SAPS came up (Booysen was the commander of the Cato Manor Organized Crime Unit, members of which are facing numerous charges of ‘hitsquad’ killings; he was reinstated after charges against him fell away). The cadre’s response = ‘What difference does it make’ – reflected the widespread disillusionment with the police, despite control over them having shifted to the ANC government. Apartheid police were brutal and corrupt, but they were at least well trained and efficient. Like their predecessors, far too many of the democratic era police are exceedingly brutal and corrupt – but they are also grossly inefficient. South Africa has had twenty years of nepotism and tokenism posturing as affirmative action : There has been no fundamental transformation from apartheid policing.
Cadre deployment must be stopped, and promotions to management, including national and provincial commissioners, must be made on the basis, not of race or political affiliation – but on that of being long serving, well trained members with clean, proven track records and management skills. It is, of course, unlikely that the powers that be would buy into that – but if they do not they will continue to expose themselves as emperors without clothes when they mouth meaningless platitudes about fighting crime

GROSS IMBALANCES IN THE SCALES OF SOUTH AFRICAN JUSTICE

‘There’s not a rich man there, who couldn’t pay his way, and buy the freedom that’s a high price for the poor’. So goes songwriter and activist Graham Nash’s poignant Prison Song – a song with a particular resonance for South Africa where the powerful may evade justice, and where the poor (some of them innocent of any crime) may languish in prison, facing rape, or even death, at the hands of prison gangs. Far too often the quest for justice by the powerless is thwarted, whereas cases involving the rich and famous not only receive priority attention from the police (and well paid private investigators) but draw on the services of top – and hugely expensive – lawyers who are able to pick holes in what are often poorly investigated cases. Unlike the Pistorius or Dewani cases, the vast majority of murders never reach court, let alone lead to convictions. Three recent cases show some of the obstacles the majority of families of crime victims face in their quest for justice.

In 2007 Dundee councillor Grisham Bujram was murdered, ostensibly because of his attempts to expose corruption in the municipality. While they had not orchestrated the hit, two men were convicted of the killing. A third alleged accomplice, together with one of the convicted men, claimed that they had killed Bujram on the instructions of the then mayor who subsequently stood trial. However, the case dragged on, with postponements linked to the accused’s alleged ill-health. The state witness conveniently disappeared, and the accused was acquitted for lack of evidence. There has been no closure for the family, traumatised by the long drawn-out proceedings, since the identity of the mastermind has not been confirmed. Nor has there been any follow up of the corruption which they believe was behind their loved-one’s death. Mrs Bujram also claims that she has been threatened for pursuing this matter, and that there have been incidents which appear to have been attempts on her life.

Mr X, a taxi operator was killed, together with an acquaintance who was giving him a lift, when their car was riddled with bullets by police members pursuing them. Not long before he died X had made a statement to the police that he feared being killed by other taxi operators colluding with the police because he refused to pay extortion money. Despite the gravity of the matter, and potentially incriminating evidence, IPID failed conspicuously to do its duty, leaving the investigation to a local detective who was accused of colluding with X’s opponents. This detective denied that Y, the policeman named in the shooting (who allegedly had taxi interests), had been at the scene. However, that Y was implicated in the incident was confirmed by, among others, his unit commander. Due to the extremely shoddy investigation there has been no prosecution and now, according to the family’s lawyer, important evidence has disappeared from the docket.

Nor has Leonie Luckin seen justice done after her only daughter, Leanne. died, in September 2013, when police who had chased her for many kilometres along the N2 fired at her car, causing her to die of injuries sustained when it crashed. The deceased, who lived on the lower South Coast, had opened a case against the police before she died (she had told her mother a police member had tried to bribe her). According to a witness at the shooting scene, cited in a press report, the police not only failed to assist the dying woman, but interfered with the crime scene by removing the vehicle. Follow up of the case by IPID appeared slow, and it is not known whether the vehicle – which was left standing at the insurer’s premises – was ever subject to a thorough examination. According to Mrs Luckin, she has had no information about who the police were, why they were chasing her daughter, and whether reports about police conduct at the scene of the crash have been investigated. She has simply been informed by IPID that prosecution has been declined, and that the case will proceed to inquest.

What is of great concern in this and other cases in which there has been no prosecution is that victims’ relatives are not informed about their right to apply for a formal inquest. It appears that it is left to the discretion of magistrates to decide on whether to hold a formal inquest hearing or simply file the matter away. At the very least, cases in which the police have killed people should automatically be subject to a formal inquest at which families enjoy competent legal representation.. This court procedure may be denied victims’ families because they do not know their rights, nor do they usually have access to quality legal assistance.

The dismal conviction rate for murder is due to a number of factors, starting with the appalling state of policing – especially detective services and crime intelligence – the failure of the prosecuting service to guide investigators and ensure quality evidence and, in some cases, poor prosecution. Nor does the disappearance of ballistics evidence from police custody help the cause of justice.. That the disgraceful state of crucial forensic services – broken x-ray machines and scales, incompetent, ill-disciplined staff and insufficient well trained pathologists – also defeats the ends of justice is shown by the recent well publicised trial of men accused of killing British marine Brett Williams. The blame for this state of affairs lies with the departments and ministers concerned – including the provincial Department of Health and its MEC who must take personal responsibility for the virtual collapse of the forensic pathology services which can make or break justice in the province. Ultimately, it is the complete lack of accountability, and arrogance, of elected officials, which is responsible for the vast majority of South Africans being denied justice in cases of violent crime.

The recent murder of Senzo Meyiwa was indeed tragic – but so are all murders. To slightly re-work poet John Donne’s immortal words, ‘each death diminishes us for we are part of humanity’