Crime-weary South Africans need no reminding about the ever-present threat of violence. In the work done by KZN Monitor this year there are, however, three areas of particular concern relating to policing, land rights abuses, and political intolerance which, if incidents in 2013 are anything to go by, may well bedevil the elections scheduled for 2014.
Policing and the administration of justice
On a positive note there appears to be a very slight improvement in police accountability manifest in somewhat better responses from police management to issues drawn to its attention. However, this improvement applies only to some stations and clusters, and does not appear to emanate from any change on the part of provincial management. It is only when matters are drawn to the attention of the national commissioner’s office that there is any response from province. It is significant that the provincial MEC found it necessary to appeal directly to the national office in addressing political violence and policing problems in Estcourt recently.
However, there is still far too much abuse of power by police members, including through malicious arrests. While there have been a number of reports of victims of such arrests winning damages from the police poor people – the majority of victims – lack the resources to pursue this option. Mumsie Msomi was arrested recently following a protest at Ndwedwe, together with her disabled brother – allegedly because she had told members of Public Order Policing Unit to stop harassing her brother, who walks with two sticks (they ordered him to run). She was distraught at being locked up because she had a baby at home, and elderly parents to look after. Following intervention by Monitor the police agreed to release the siblings on warning and the following day the charges were withdrawn. This is but one of countless such cases.
Killings by the police continue unabated, with the 2012/2013 IPID report showing 44 deaths in custody and 102 people killed in action in KZN. In a properly functioning democracy the Minister for Police would long since have done the honourable thing and resigned. To make matters worse, follow ups by IPID leave much to be desired. When seventeen year old Nqobile Nzuza, who had gone to see an early morning protest by Cato Crest residents was shot dead by the police in September it was three weeks before an IPID investigator collected cartridges picked up by Abahlali members, whose lawyer had already taken statements. Three months laterthere has been no feedback about progress (if any). Similarly, Mrs Leonie Lukin, the mother of Leanne Douglas, who died after the police shot her car in September, has not been kept up to date with investigations, including what action if any has been taken against the police members. According to witness reports the police not only shot the car but failed to assist the victim and proceeded to defeat the ends of justice with an attempted cover up. To make matters worse, the Southport police – to which South Coast station the members are attached – refuse to provide public information about supposed cases opened against the deceased (which might help to explain why they were following her, since it is alleged that she had refused to pay a bribe).
IPID performance is extremely disappointing – but one can hardly expect good morale at the unit given that key appointments are acting, and to which the government seems determined to appoint a totally unsuitable candidate – Robert McBride, who is not a lawyer, and who has a poor management track record – as national head. IPID should not fall under the Minister for Police, but should be appointed by, and accountable to, an independent body headed by a judicial officer.
Despite legislation, the police ignore IPID recommendations, as in the unit’s call for internal disciplinary action against TRT members who abused Thabiso Zulu (see 2012 reports). Almost two years later the criminal case is in court, but, since witnesses have dispersed and there are fears that they may have been intimidated it may well be yet another case of justice delayed is justice denied. Before the case was handed to IPD the original investigator failed to take a statement after a witness was intimidated, and also failed to retrieve crucial CCTV footage of the incident. The Zulu matter is only one of dozens of TRT cases which has progressed to court. Others have ground to a halt after olice management failed to co-operate in the holding of ID parades.
Abuses by traditional leaders
As the regressive Traditional Leaders bill lurks in the parliamentary background leaders continue to abuse their powers with impunity. Mpumuza near Pietermaritzburg is one of the areas where land historically belonging to a local family has been sold to outsiders by an Induna (headman). Such transactions fuel tensions and may well lead to violence.
The treatment meted out to the Nombika family of the Highflats area under high ranking chief Phathisizwe Chiliza is absolutely appalling. According to Mr Zikebe Nombika, in August, members of the local ‘community law enforcement’ group Isikebhe accused him of stealing a goat, tortured him and others, and stole one of his cattle. As they tried to extract a written confession of stocktheft from him they continued to abuse him, in collusion with the local induna and chief. The police refused to intervene. Mr Nombika was then allegedly accused by the chief of witchcraft and ordered to leave the area. In fear of his life he, his wife and six children deserted their home and cattle and have taken refuge elsewhere.
This case raises extremely serious questions about these community law enforcers whose existence is sanctioned by the provincial Department of Community Safety, and the failure of the police to take action against them and the traditional leadership when the law is broken. This matter has been drawn to the urgent attention of the MECs for Traditional Affairs and Policing, but there has been no response. However, the SAPS Cluster Commander at Margate is following the matter up, and has interviewed Mr Nombika.
As political tensions, and outbreaks of violence, continue in some areas (hostels, Estcourt), there have also been incidents in which party representatives and members have tried to implement ‘no go’ areas for other parties, or even social movements such as that of shack dwellers operating under the Abahlali banner. This lack of tolerance was shown in the conduct of the mayor of Durban and the MEC for Health in Cato Crest who addressed what was supposed to have been a community meeting in June in their political capacities. Co-incidentally, housing activist Nkululeko Gwala, whose removal had been called for, was shot dead after the meeting (see 2013 Cato Crest report).
In November, MK veteran and former ANC and COPE activist Phillip Mhlongo, visited the memorial to those slain in the December 1995 Shobashobane massacre while he was in the area for a funeral. He was attacked by ANC members – because he is now a member of Julius Malemna’s EFF (Economic Freedom Front) and was wearing the party’sa red beret. He required medical treatment but was was saved from further harm by the intervention of the local councillor and the police.
Prospects for 2014
Insofar as crime is concerned there is little light on the horizon and those who can afford it will take what refuge they can behind high walls, electric fences and private security. The poor will continue to suffer the worst, especially in rural areas under authoritarian leaders and ineffectual and/or inadequate policing. Improvement will require, at the very least, a transformation in crime intelligence and detective services, and vastly improved conviction rates for the bosses of the drug and hijacking syndicates .
If nothing is done to drag traditional leadership into the democratic age the rural poor will continue to suffer – especially if the Traditional Leaders bill is resurrected and passes parliamentary muster (see 2012 report)
Given continuing levels of political intolerance, and corruption within parties, there will doubtless be a degree of intimidation and incidents of violence in the lead up to 2014 elections. The main areas of competition are likely to be between the IFP and the NFP, and the ANC and EFF, with the latter party probably posing the greatest threat to the party governing the province and country. However, in the unlikely event of President Zuma being recalled, provincial dynamics would change significantly.