Category Archives: Reports


In recent weeks crime-weary South Africans have been shocked by the sheer brutality of many criminal incidents, especially those in which the victims are women and children. In the absence of sufficient comparative data it is difficult to assess whether the incidence of such crimes is increasing, but the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse of primary and pre-primary school children appears to be growing.
Although there are dysfunctional people who commit heinous crimes in all societies, the social context is crucial in shaping human behaviour. People exhibiting what psycho-analyst Erich Fromm terms malignant aggression, including acts of cruelty, are used by totalitarian states to implement their brutal repressive measures. In a well governed democracy the damage they can do is minimised by the criminal justice system but even then, as acts of terrorism show, such individuals continue to pose a risk to their fellow citizens.
South Africa is a society damaged by its history, shaped by over a century of structural and inter-personal violence. Many whites, armed to the teeth, used their guns in their own homes, with the country’s rate of family killings among the highest in the world. In black families women were regularly abused by their partners who, stripped of their dignity by apartheid, displaced their anger on their womenfolk.
Townships, even before the rise of State-sponsored violence in the 1980s, were crime-ridden. As in ghettos all over the world, young men used violence to combat their powerlessness. As psychologist Rollo May puts in his book Power and Innocence ‘Deeds of violence…are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate that they, too, are significant’. May’s words assist in understanding why protest action, including by unemployed and badly educated youths, is so violent.
Apartheid criminalised a large sector of black society for petty offences, and its prisons often turned offenders into hardened criminals affiliated to prison gangs. By the 1980s guns were flooding into black occupied areas to fuel State-sponsored ‘black-on-black’ violence and mandrax was used as an apartheid chemical warfare weapon.
Little has been done in the past twenty three years to deal with the violent legacy of the past and give meaning to life-affirmative Constitutional values. Violent crime continues to pay because the criminal justice system does not deal effectively with it – spawning further violence in the form of vigilante activities. The organised crime networks of old flourish, and drugs flood urban and rural areas. Paramilitary training continued into the 2000s and may contribute to the ranks of well trained hit men whose services are used for, among other things, taxi and political killings – and the home invasions carried out with military precision. Guns appear easily accessible as huge caches from the 1990s remain unaccounted for.
Policing has further deteriorated in the past decade because of extremely poor management – linked to political interference. The conviction rate for serious crimes is notoriously low. There is an urgent need to address these problems but the political will appears lacking.
It is also essential to address the fundamental causes of this type of crime. Violence in the home knows no racial boundaries but colonialism was responsible for the destruction of family life of millions of black people, especially through the migrant labour system. This legacy has not been addressed, as evidenced by the continued existence of hostels, and rural-underdevelopment. The government has also failed to engage with shack dwellers about upgrading their accommodation. Too many family groupings remain fragmented, with single mothers struggling to care for their children in the absence of emotional and financial support from fathers.
Children need a stable family grouping of caring adults who do not abuse them, and who provide them with the type of sound moral education which is essential for the development of a conscience which can distinguish between right and wrong. Male role models who respect women are crucial for the development of a sense of self esteem and worth in both boys and girls. Far too many children continue to grow up in an environment where violence is the norm – and then perpetuate this cycle themselves. Many then experience a dysfunctional education system which may include further abuse, including from educators, and become victims of drug-pedlars.
The government has failed the youth, but there are many ways for concerned citizens, including in faith based organisations, to assist. These include initiatives to supplement education, to combat drug use, and to develop sporting, artistic and musical talents. Gardening skills environmental work are important. These are but some of the ways in which trustworthy adult role models can work with children and youth to develop their innate talents and their self esteem so that they do not have to resort to violence to demonstrate that they, too, are significant human beings.


While the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994 proceeded relatively peacefully, the run up to those elections had been marked by unprecedented levels of violence. The victims were primarily ANC or IFP supporters but the drivers of it were the apartheid security forces, especially right wing elements in the police who were opposed to the sweeping changes initiated by then President de Klerk. The context was one in which negotiations about the nature of the future state were highly contested, with conservative forces pushing for greater devolution of powers to regions, and the IFP refusing to participate in elections until certain preconditions were met. The impasse was resolved days before the elections when the IFP announced that it would participate, and violence levels dropped. However, a similar pattern of violence was to continue for the next few years (4000 were killed between May 1994 and December 1998) but was to gradually diminish. While inter-party tensions and incidents continued into the new millennium, especially around election times, intra-party conflict – especially that linked to local government issues – increased. There have been approximately 35 politically-linked deaths in the province since the beginning of 2016, but, and another seventy plus murders in Glebelands hostel – most linked to internal ANC dynamics – since early 2014.
South Africa has, historically, been a violent society, fuelled by repression, powerlessness and, especially, the violence into which too many children are born and grow up. This violence intensified during the increased repression of the 1980s and what is now KwaZulu-Natal became its epicentre, driven by a proliferation of guns which have never been properly accounted for. While murder linked to politics and corruption – the two often go hand-in hand – occur all over South Africa, levels remain highest in KZN. The current context is one in which there are deep divisions within the ANC over who becomes its next president, for this province has become its main support base and eThekwini its largest party voting region.
During the liberation and negotiation period ANC supporters were the main victims because the full might of the apartheid state was brought against them. Now, in addition to internal party divisions, and individual conflict over coveted positions, the formerly oppressed are themselves accused of the type of intolerance and oppression they themselves experienced. In the run up to the 1994 elections, the Inanda shack area of Bhambayi, an ANC stronghold, experienced extremely high levels of ‘third force’ state-sponsored violence. Now the shack dwellers movement Abahlali base Mjondolo reports that a new armed vigilante group linked to two ANC councillors in Inanda is intimidating and attacking its members, and that the local station commander has not taken action against them, but referred the group’s leadership to the local councillor (a common pattern, police deferring to councillors) There has been a similar targeting of the movement in other areas, including in Cato Crest where, in June 2013 a housing activist was shot dead after being threatened by the then regional chairperson of the ANC.
Politically –linked killings are part and parcel of the abnormally high levels of violence in our society, and the failure of the criminal justice system to deal with it. Attacks on political office bearers have spawned a proliferation of armed bodyguards who – because of lax controls over the security industry – may not even be registered with PSIRA. Taxi operators have virtual private armies. Well trained hit men are used in many killings, and there seems to be no concerted effort to deal with this phenomenon. Who is training them? Where do they get their guns from? It is known that armed hit men hide at Glebelands hostel – yet the police take no action against them. Nor have any convictions been secured for the approximately 80 murders in Glebelands since early 2014, or the five in Westville since early 2016.
Transforming the brutal and racist apartheid police force was probably the biggest challenge faced by the ANC government when it took office, and it failed abysmally. Instead of identifying and promoting long serving black members with proven track records it placed its own cadres, who were hopelessly out of their depth, into key positions. While brutality remains, efficiency has continued to decline and deterioration has been conspicuous in the past seven years. Political interference and the appointment of the wrong people to key management positions – apparently for political reasons – is responsible for the dysfunctional state of the service (but there are many members who strive to do their jobs professionally –and risk their lives because corruption in the service is not dealt with adequately).
All state institutions have suffered because of the marked deterioration in governance in recent years, which is accompanied by a culture of secrecy and an increasing lack of accountability bordering on contempt for the taxpaying public – a far cry from the government which took office in 1994. With some exceptions – which depend largely on the quality of police station management – it has become virtually impossible to get constructive action taken against those responsible for breaking the law with impunity. The situation is one of virtual anarchy which jeopardises everyone’s safety and security, and the gains made in building democracy. It is a situation which calls for vigilance on the part of all citizens to ensure that it does not get even worse.


Newly appointed Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula started his tenure with rhetoric reminiscent of the pre-Marikana period when he exhorted police members to ‘shoot back’. Although he has since stressed that ‘rough’ action must be legal, he fails to recognise that he is dealing with a police service in which brutality – including torture – is already widespread. As well as being illegal, such practices can be counter-productive to the fight against violent crime. What he should be addressing are the serious problems he has inherited, including dysfunctional crime intelligence and (with some exceptions) detective services, and widespread corruption. Incompetent management lies at the heart of these problems, which are not due to a lack of resources but the way they are handled.
Take, for example, the top heavy structure of management, and the numbers promoted to senior positions at the expense of rank-and-file members who are the ones out risking their lives. KZN now has six deputy provincial commissioners it did not have twenty years ago, yet the quality of policing – including accountability – has deteriorated noticeably in those two decades. Too many people are promoted to senior management, earning salaries many do not deserve, leaving less for salaries paid to their juniors who do the bulk of the policing work.
Political interference, nepotism and cronyism has led to many being promoted beyond their levels of competence, often at the expense of members with valuable experience and a proven track record of good policing. Many of these members have left the service, or remain marginalised. However, some stations are far better managed than others, and proactive community policing forums can – in some cases- assist in improving service delivery. With the exception of the dedicated VIP component, no police members should be deployed to guard politicians – they should be at stations where resources, including human, are scarce, as in many rural areas.
It is management which is responsible for failing to maintain police buildings and vehicles (the lack of roadworthy Flying Squad vehicles is a recent example), and ensuring that all members have access to bullet proof vests when on active duty. It should also be ensuring discipline (which some long serving members claim has declined) and proper record keeping.
Management also fails to deal with corrupt members who collude with criminals and thus pose a grave threat to their colleagues who strive to do their jobs properly. Nor is there any evidence of action being taken against members whose guns go missing. In the past decade thousands of police issue guns have been stolen or lost, some of them from police storage. From available statistics, few are recovered. In one incident, 43 guns were stolen from the Maphumulo station, in what was clearly an inside job for only specific items were selected, all of them exhibits in taxi cases. The station commissioner had, on more than one occasion, asked provincial management to improve storage security, but without success. Similarly, not long before exhibits were stolen from the SAPS ballistics testing centre at Amazimtoti, the Provincial Commissioner had been informed in writing about members’ security concerns (there was no response from her office). Controls over the use of guns such as R4s are lax, with a member facing charges for shooing his wife dead with one in 2016. A similar gun (or guns) has been used in the Glebelands hostel carnage, and linked to a police member who lives in the complex and associates with criminals. This was drawn to the attention of the member’s Cluster Commander (now a Deputy Provincial Commissioner) and the Provincial Commissioner, in 2015, but there was no response. The member is reportedly still arming criminals..
Crime intelligence services are pivotal in preventing crime, but they now serve primarily political ends. Not only have SAPS turned a blind eye to paramilitary training, but people who need an armed hit man to kill a partner, political opponent or business associate can easily find one – yet the police, whose job it is to identify hit men and illegal guns, are unable to do so. Many police informers are themselves criminals so if they do provide information about impending robberies (and the information they provide may be inaccurate, and used to target their own enemies) police should intervene before they are about to engage in violent criminal activity, for that is when they themselves, as well as innocent people, are at high risk from a gun fight.

Having lost experienced members, failed to train new ones properly, and promoted the wrong people, detective services have continued to decline. What evidence there is suggests that convictions for murder are notoriously low. In the past three years over 80 people have been murdered in Glebelands hosel complex, but there is no known conviction. Nor has there been a conviction in five murder cases since early 2016 in Westville. The police make many arrests, most without sufficient evidence, only to have the cases withdrawn – by which time innocent people may have lost jobs. It seems there is great pressure to make arrests, despite lack of evidence, as a public relations exercise. Those arrested may be abused, or tortured (tubing – near suffocation – is a favoured method, which may lead to death). Torture is a serious crime but management does nothing to stop it. If it is shown to have happened it will impact negatively on prosecution. This abuse is also responsible for huge claims against the police which the taxpayers end up funding. IPID is ineffectual and should be removed from the control of the Minister of Police to that of an independent oversight body. Even when IPID makes recommendations to the police these may be ignored and no follow up action taken.
If the new minister is serious about reducing crime he needs to address all these issues, but given that political interference has played a key role in rendering the criminal justice system dysfunctional it remains to be seen whether he will do so.


Heritage month reminds us of the diversity of backgrounds – linguistic, family (clan) and religious – with which we are blessed, and it is fitting that we should celebrate them. Let us not forget, however, that the apartheid edifice was built upon contrived differences – race and socially engineered ethnic groups. These categories continue to exert too much influence over our thinking, as when they manifest themselves as ‘anti-Indian’ sentiment. Global rhetoric about the ‘war on terror’ may also lead to irrational religious prejudice. While we celebrate our individual heritage, let us also make an effort to understand that of ‘the other’ to promote much needed nation building. . In the process we shall discover that, as sixteenth century poet and mystic John Donne put it, no one is an island; we are all shaped by our common human history. Let us also celebrate that heritage, and build a nation which is a harmonious microcosm of it.
Despite it being an artificial category (we whites lost our pigment for biological reasons when we migrated to areas where the sun was scarce) race continues to rear its ugly head. Its meaning lies in its association with the gross exploitation which started at the beginning of the sixteenth century when colonial expansion began, especially in the form of slavery which was of a different order to that which taken place in recorded history. Because apartheid was about levels of economic exploitation based on race, and despite progress, we still have a long way to correct the imbalance. However, generalisations about racial groups, such as the recent debate about whether Indians were advantaged under apartheid relative to indigenous Africans, oversimplify matters, and obscure the fact that poverty was also widespread in Indian communities. Like other racial comparisons it also ignores the fact that the Bantustan system improved the financial status of many Africans, some of whom became extremely wealthy through their business deals. Of course our past is important in understanding the present, but what we should be asking is why we have not made more progress in righting its wrongs, especially in the crucial field of education, instead of shifting the blame on to other racial groups. Similarly, it is easier to blame whites for colonialism than demand answers about the continuation of migrant labour because of the failure to develop the labour reservoir reserves which were the rationale for colonialism.
Prejudice also manifests in media exchanges between Hindus and Muslims. Both of these groupings have played important roles in shaping the world as we know it today. India gave rise to probably our oldest pacifist movement, and it is to Indian mathematicians that we owe the concept of Zero. To Islam, the modern world owes a great debt of gratitude. It was the medieval Islamic scholars – including philosophers and scientists – who kept alive the work of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers when it had been lost to Europe in the dark ages, influencing authors and scientists such as Dante and Roger Bacon. The works of Ibn-Sinam, described as the greatest of their philosophers, impacted on the arguments of philosophers such as Thomas Acquinus. From the eighth century Bagdad was the seat of world learning. Eleventh century polymath and poet Omar Khayamm devised a calendar which was more accurate than the Gregorian one, and Moslem scientists influenced Christian thinking in Spain for seven centuries, probably impacting on the Renaissance. (Author Gavin Menzies also argues that China, as well as circumventing the world before Colombus, made an important contribution to the Renaissance)
Africa is, of course, our original home and racial melting pot. As a result of trade with the Mediterranean powerful states such as Ghana flourished while Europe was still in the dark ages. Trade between Asia and the continent – including East Africa – has been going on for millennia, as has intra-continental migration. Mating goes with migration, leading to the heterogenous population of today. There are no pure races : To use apartheid terminology, we are all’ coloureds’.
It was colonialism too which created the fixed ethnic identities we see in South Africa (and many other parts of the continent), which are a legacy of indirect rule refined by apartheid. Apartheid used a long discredited notion of culture, an offshoot of the scientific racism which led to the Nazi horrors, to try to justify its Bantustan policy. Unfortunately the groups it defined have assumed a life of their own, and, with our nation-building exercise seeming to have fallen away in recent years, tribalism rearing its ugly head all over the country, especially – because of political and economic dynamics – in KZN. While there is a tendency to generalise the term Zulu to all indigenous people in this province, it has no historical validity and other indigenous groupings include Bhaca, Hlubi and Thonga. There are also many Xhosa and Pondo residents, and intermarriage is common. King Shaka, a man of mythic proportions, is celebrated as a Pan-African icon and hero.
While we celebrate our cultural (shared practices and/or ideas) heritage we also need to learn from our recent past (and the experience of strife torn societies all over the world) : Culture should never be used to garner political support, or to justify the control of political and economic resources. We need to put nation-building back on our agenda.


‘Our forefathers were not heard until they went on strike, and retaliated by burning and demolishing stuff to get their voices heard……Our fathers attained democracy by acting out, and we will get the #feestofall by acting out’. These sentiments, expressed by UKZN commerce student Simangele Mbanjwa in a recent media opinion piece, are a sad indictment of the way in which using violence in protests against injustice and corruption has become a norm. However, the reference to previous generations attaining democracy by ‘acting out’ is a gross oversimplification since the lives of black people under apartheid, and trivialises the struggles they engaged in, cannot be compared with the challenges university students are now facing. Ironically, all evidence points to much of the pre-1994 protest violence, including the burning and demolishing of what was then the University of Natal property, being fuelled by the hidden hand of the apartheid security apparatus. While it is by no means proven that all the recent damage to university property was caused by its students, all protest action can easily be hijacked by opportunistic forces unless all possible steps are taken by the protesters to prevent that from happening.
By the 1970s there was increasing infiltration of groupings opposed to apartheid by its police. Many feared to speak openly, including on the telephone. A letter writer to ‘The World’ newspaper before its 1977 banning opined that in a grouping of three people one would probably be a police informer. By the late 1970s the state stepped up its campaign to remove whole communities out of ‘white’ South Africa into Bantustans and, at a mass meeting of affected communities at a hall in Durban in 1981, one of the targeted communities – Chesterville – was represented by struggle veteran Pitness’Stalwart’ Similane. During the meeting, Similane became agitated, and complained that a woman who had just arrived (name given), claiming to represent Chesterville, was linked to the security policeman who had been keeping a watch on him when he was charged in the 1956 Treason Trial. This woman was at that stage working to ingratiate herself with the Black Sash.
By the 1980s, the state had devised its total strategy to deal with what it perceived as the total onslaught, with military extending its tentacles into civil society.
This was the context in which student activists operated, and many of them paid dearly for their brave struggles, including with their lives. The cream of provincial youth leadership was among those targeted by police or vigilantes in the 1980s and early 1990s. There were waves of detentions, often accompanied by torture, and various other forms of abuse. In March 1987, a seventeen year old female KwaMashu SRC member was abducted in town, driven by disguised men to an unknown area, questioned about the identities of other SRC members, and assaulted repeatedly by men who clearly had information about her. When she refused to take off her clothes they held her down while one ran a knife over her clothes, cutting into her, before cutting and ripping off her underwear and taking turns to rape her, laughing as they did so. They finally decided to let her live, and dumped her, blindfolded, at Umlazi, where a resident gave her money to travel home. The day before this incident the bodies of seven schoolboys who had been abducted were found near the border of KwaMashu and a nearby shack area. Such were the dangers faced by student activists. Some were turned by their detention into informers, but the police often framed people as informers knowing they would probably be killed. One of them, murdered in Chesterville, was teacher Philemon Khanyile. Notorious security policeman Frank Bennetts described to the Truth Commission how he had framed Khanyile. By the late 1980s many comrades were battling to maintain discipline as their ranks had been infiltrated by com-tsotsis, criminals who the police allowed to operate with impunity.
It was in this context that a grenade exploded at the then University of Natal in May 1992, causing huge damage to a chemistry laboratory. It followed protest action over the academic exclusion of a student (Knowledge Mdlalose)in which a prominent student activist M had played a pivotal role (and also in other educational protest action). Evidence links M, who was seen leaving the precincts when the grenade exploded, and was in possession of grenades that night, as being the culprit. M had been a student at various tertiary institutions and although he had never progressed beyond first year exerted tremendous influence over young comrades by claiming to be a lawyer. When the security police visited the scene of the explosion and were told that M had been seen in the vicinity, one commented that he was ‘trained in the use of explosives’ M was also seen near a burning motorcycle in the centre of Durban during a well supported protest march against the death of Chris Hani. M reportedly worked for the military as well as the security police, and had been linked to incidents in which comrades had died after being handed primed grenades. What evidence there is also suggests that the fires which gutted offices in the university’s Memorial Tower Building and Shepstone building in1986 as being orchestrated by the security police.
Apartheid era members remaining in the SAPS now serve the democratic government, but protesters, including idealistic youth, are unwittingly using the violent protest tactics perfected by the apartheid state. Students have legitimate grievances over the lack of sufficient tertiary level funding but there is no comparison between their struggles in a constitutional democracy – with various other options available to them – and the completely powerless youth under apartheid who were left with no option but to resort to struggle tactics. Tactics now open to students include the ballot box, peaceful lobbying and protest action, and an insistence on dialogue (they can also study part time, like their forebears did, towards qualifications, including degrees). The blame for the current funding crisis lies with the government, which fails to halt obscene corruption, billions in irregular expenditure, and the bailing out badly run parastatals rather than invest in the country’s youth. Its bloated, overpaid and largely ineffectual cabinet is a national disgrace.
However, it is essential that the university executive (and staff) find ways of engaging meaningfully with students, not only about the fees issue, but also on other protest linked grievances. They must investigate serious allegations about ill treatment at the hands of badly trained police and private security. We all need to know why, despite the presence of the university and other security, campus, property was not properly secured. There are also allegations that instigators of some of the violence are not university of KZN students, and may even be squatting in student residents (a practice rife during protests in the 1990s in which non-students featured prominently. Peaceful ways of resolving the present impasse must be found for violence begets further violence.


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.


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


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.


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.


‘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.