‘The relocation and redistribution of land process took a staggering blow with the unexpected and secretive passing of the KwaZulu INgonyama Trust Act which was passed by the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly and assented to by President de Klerk on 25 April 1994……….’
Cohen, T in Human Rights Yearbook 1995 (1996:144)

Amidst threats of violence, a political storm is brewing following an announcement by the central government of its intention to amend or do away with the Ingonyama Trust Act. Denials by the F W de Klerk Foundation and former IFP leader Prince Buthelezi that the legislation was passed secretly are disingenuous. The matter had not been canvassed with the Nationalist Party’s main CODESA negotiator, the ANC. The context was one in which the IFP, in partnership with ultra conservative groupings, was making unrealistic demands about devolution of powers to regions, and, with unprecedented levels of violence, and the party refusing to participate in the elections of 27 April until the eleventh hour, there were fears of an intensified civil war in the region. Furthermore, since 1992 there had been reports that the then government was secretly planning to transfer large areas of land to homeland governments, despite agreements reached at CODESA, and legislation passed in 1993 had given President de Klerk what lawyers had described as ‘extraordinary powers’ to bypass parliament in matters pertaining to the self-governing homelands.

The recent proposals are made in the interests of promoting the land rights of rural residents, so it is not clear why they should be pose a threat, save to Board members and staff benefitting financially from the income of the Trust. The great respect and prestige enjoyed by King Zwelithini has nothing to do with the existence of the Trust (which is widely resented by his subjects). The Act itself appears clearly unconstitutional since it discriminates against black people living in KZN as opposed to those living in other provinces where such Trusts do not exist. Nor is there any good reason why only one of the various kings in South Africa should be the sole trustee of a Land Trust. Historically, this land was not ‘owned’ in the modern commercial sense by traditional leaders or kings, for relationships to land were of a different order in the pre-colonial era. The Trust’s claim to nominal ownership of the land through Zulu customary law is seriously flawed.

The Trust has, with impunity, breached the provisions of its governing Act, which stipulates that it must be administered for the benefit, material welfare and well being of the areas it controls. In 1991 rural residents in the far north of the province near Mbazwane discovered that, unbeknown to them, the Trust had granted a lease to a local traditional leader to operate a private game reserve in partnership with outside business interests. To that end, he fenced the area off and evicted residents from their ancestral homes – and arranged for local police to arrest them if they returned to engage in their subsistence activities. All appeals to the Trust failed and it was only through concerted opposition by the community, and various court actions – including an interdict against the chief – that residents eventually won the right to remain in their homes. The area, like some of the others falling under the Trust, had never been part of the historic Zulu kingdom.

In 2008 the KZN government and a traditional leader reportedly entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with a Dubai-based investor for a massive tourism development in the eMacambini area near Mandeni. The deal fell through, so no lease was issued by the Trust, but it did lease the land to Hulett Tongaat, without consulting with affected community members, including those who had been given the land when they were removed from Mangete in the 1970s. As usual, the consultation had been with the local traditional leader who controlled the community trust set up. This same leader, notorious for terrorising his own subjects and driving them off their land, while orchestrating illegal land invasions and general mayhem in nearby Mangete, was subsequently appointed to the Board of the Trust.

Commonage land, especially in peri-urban Trust areas, is being allocated to outsiders for building purposes, decreasing the land available to long established residents. The rights of these residents are protected in law by the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA). Now the Trust is trying to persuade residents on traditional land to sign leases (allegedly written in English), which would involve paying annual rent for land they already have rights to. If they default on rent they could be evicted.

The Trust has also claimed mining royalties as revenue, compounding problems experienced by communities opposing mining because of the social and environmental damage it does (However, the Trust’s allocation of mining royalties was one of the reasons its most recent audit was a qualified one). In the 2016/2017 period the Trust Board signed a long term lease deal with RBM Richards Bay Minerals) to mine 10 000 hectares in the Mthunzini area, boasting about it empowering communities. Community members feel otherwise : They complain of polluted water, cracked houses, and health problems.

Despite the excessive cost to taxpayers of rural government, with its top down provincial, municipal and traditional structures, there is little in the way of true development, because consultation and input from residents is generally lacking. The Trust is part of this broader problem, and its existence serves no purpose whatsoever in alleviating the plight of the poorest of the poor.
Hopefully sanity will prevail and the Trust will enter into discussions with the government about the way forward. Any talk of war, regardless of where it emanates from, is to be condemned. Public marching with traditional weapons is illegal, and if defenders of the Trust take to the streets armed SAPS management and politicians will be held to account if the law does not take its course.


Despite the divisions within the ANC the dominant rhetoric of the governing party continues to focus on radical economic transformation and the expropriation of land without compensation. This rhetoric should fool no one: The only people likely to benefit from such moves are those who already enjoy a surfeit of political and economic power, not the majority of South Africans who are poor. The human rights of people dependent on state services – including those relating to health, safety and justice – are constantly trampled on by representatives of a bloated and increasingly unaccountable government. Without a growth in awareness of how dire the situation has become, and organised civil action, a further erosion of rights is likely.

The massive housing backlog, and the appalling state of apartheid-era hostels, should provide the government with an ideal opportunity to empower shack and hostel dwellers with skills to enable them to upgrade and maintain the settlements or buildings in which they live. It chooses instead to award huge tenders to the politically well connected, and then dispense patronage in the form of RDP houses to win political support. Similarly, in awards for public transport it is the politically well-connected who benefit. Taxi operations are being affected by the much-vaunted ‘Go Durban’ scheme, from which politically favoured operators are allegedly benefiting. Since colonial times the informal liquor sector has been the key driver in promoting entrepreneurship and overcoming poverty. However, the largest taverns in Pietermaritzburg and certain provincial towns are now allegedly operated by one of the country’s major BRICS partners. There are unconfirmed reports that rural residents – whose indigenous land rights are already under threat from mining – are being instructed by the Department of Agriculture to compromise their own food security by growing soya. People who lodged land claims in the 1990s receive no feedback from the Department handling them and some suspect that their land is being given to non-claimants. Allegedly, most politicians own farms themselves.

While a Commission of Inquiry chaired by Advocate Moerane heard evidence about political violence, the murder of politically-connected people, including senior municipal employees, continued. Since the beginning of 2016 there have been approximately 44 killings (14 in 2017) which appear linked to politics. These figures exclude the approximate 100 deaths since March 2014 in Glebelands hostels. Most victims have been ANC-aligned, with evidence that the deaths of some are connected to their opposition to corruption. Those who are fighting to expose corruption remain under threat of death. Of grave concern is that there is that killers are evidently well trained, and that victims and potential victims are subject to surveillance, including through the interception of electronic communications. If this is happening the strict laws governing surveillance are being broken with impunity – which would also explain the failure of the police to arrest and charge well trained and armed hitmen. While there have been some arrests in connection with the deaths since January 2016, and at least one matter is proceeding in court, there have been no convictions. That a conviction for one of the Glebelands murders was finally obtained is thanks to the perseverance and diligence of investigating officers working under difficult conditions and a shortage of resources. Similarly, although a great deal of evidence has been made available to investigators and prosecutors about the type of corruption in government, which whistle-blowers are risking their lives in exposing, there is a dearth of prosecutions, amidst allegations that prosecutions are blocked by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). While good police and prosecutors struggle on it is the management of the police and prosecution services which must take responsibility for the atrociously low rate of conviction for serious crimes, including those linked to politics.
A less obvious, but crucial, factor in obstructing the course of justice is the dysfunctionality of forensic mortuary services. The gross mismanagement of these services by DoH in the province started with the appointment of the current Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Health, who allegedly colluded with workers who refused to be trained (as required by law), and engaged in illegal strikes and criminal actions. As a consequence, the service is left with only inexperienced pathologists (or, in a crime epicentre of Pietermaritzburg, none at all) with extremely serious consequences for justice.

The callous conduct of government representatives and Departmental management exposed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Life Esidumeni deaths in Gauteng is characteristic of the treatment of cancer patients by the KZN executive members and Department of Health (DoH) management. Patients who had waited inordinately long periods for life saving radiotherapy at Addington hospital continued to die as the two oncology machines remained out of order for the fifth consecutive year. Despite a report released in June by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which ordered that machines be repaired and patients receive treatment, it seems that only residents of the North Coast area are benefitting from a Public Private Partnership entered into by the Department of Health in the Empangeni region. There has been a noticeable clamp down on information by the DoH, which is also refusing to give patents their medical records (which are patients’ property).
The MEC has consistently supplied misleading information to the legislature. He has been protected by the national minister who has also failed to disclose important information to the national parliament. In his September presentation when he blamed the crisis on unskilled employees, singling out for particular criticism Health Technology Services (HTS). In doing so he swept under the parliamentary carpet a crucial forensic report by KZN Treasury which showed that the awarding of a contract to a service provider, KZN Oncology, which was not legally allowed to service the machines not only breached various provisions of national legislation and Treasury regulations but was done wilfully by people in management positions, including the Head of Department (HoD) – and that it was the Health Technology Services, which had been deliberately by-passed, which had refused to condone it. For refusing to comply with what are widely believed political instructions the HTS Department has, according to the Minister, been stripped of its role in procurement, and the whole procurement process (widely associated with corrupt practices) has become even more opaque.
Nor did the National Minister, when briefing parliament about procurement problems, refer to another highly irregular contract for R2,5 billion signed in 2015, by the then Acting Head of Department (Dr Simelane), with Resultant Finance. This contract committed the Department to obtaining any medical equipment worth more than R5 000 other than that it leased from Resultant Finance. It is not clear whether the existence of this contract is impacting upon the servicing of oncology equipment, including scanners which are frequently out of order (another impediment to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients). Apparently the Department wishes to terminate this contract, but in July 2017 Resultant Finance brought an Application against the Head of Department of Health in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The status of this case is not known, nor is the outcome of a reported Provincial Treasury investigation into the award known.
The cancer machine saga, including insofar as it relates to irregularity in procurement, is a particularly tragic example of the gross mismanagement of the DoH. It has consistently squandered money and has recently received a qualified audit for the sixth successive year. Its irregular expenditure for the past financial year was R7,1 billion and wasteful expenditure was almost R15 million. Given that Health is, constitutionally, a concurrent jurisdiction (national and provincial) the National Minister shares responsibility for this state of affairs (including deaths which should not have happened), as does the Provincial Executive in terms of Section 133(2) of the Constitution.
Given its financial profligacy and unaccountability it would be the height of irresponsibility to give this dysfunctional department any more money and power to implement a National Health Insurance, which would probably also be used to favour the politically well-connected.

While the SAPS and the Department of Health are prime examples, the damage done to state institutions during the past eight years cannot be over-emphasised. There are ominous militaristic rumblings from this amoral, dysfunctional government, which is showing distinctly authoritarian leanings, manifest in increasing secrecy and surveillance. These disturbing trends call for greatly increased vigilance, and organised opposition, in 2018.


For all the wrong reasons KZN is once again making national headlines. The spate of killings in the run up to the 2016 local government elections has continued and the Moerane Commission, which is hearing evidence about political violence in the province, has been told that armed hit men in a Durban hostel, with alleged police links, kill with impunity. Why does KZN once again lead the country in political violence? Why has so little been planted done to address the problem?
In KZN, with its distinctive colonial legacy, successive provincial governments have, for over a century, resisted being part of a centralised, unitary state – mooting, for example, a ‘confederal’ status for the province in the 1980s, and leading the opposition to the centralised state model supported by the ANC and the Nationalist Party in the early 1990s. The fragmented KwaZulu Bantustan boasted a sizeable black African movement – Inkatha – whose support was bolstered by significant business interests and supposedly ‘liberal’ whites. The formation of the UDF with its anti-apartheid policies (e.g. opposing the incorporation of areas into KwaZulu) proved threatening to Inkatha which was synonymous with KwaZulu and, hence, apartheid. Apartheid security forces supported Inkatha and trained the homeland police as its political foot soldiers; it also planted agents provocateurs in the UDF and ANC, who were also plagued by criminal com-tsotsis. Mayhem swept the province with violence reaching unprecedented levels as the IFP and its conservative allies pushed – with some success – for greater regional powers, and threatened non-participation in the April 1994 elections. A compromise was reached but the violence continued after the elections, with a recorded 4000 deaths in the May 1994-December 1998 period.
While some of the conflict, as in Richmond, was intra-party, most involved the IFP and the ANC, with right wing police members continuing their support for warlords. The pot was stirred by Inkatha’s self protection units (SPUs), the ANC’s self defence units (SDUs) and purported MK operatives who had fled into exile post 1990. Between 1985 and 1999 at least 15 000 people had died, countless thousands had been injured, and had their homes destroyed, and had been gravely traumatised (especially children) by the violence. Dozens of guns caches –including truck loads of weapons from the Vlakplaas hit squad base – remain unaccounted for.
By the early 2000s most of the inter-party conflict was election-related, but there were some ‘no go’ political zones, and a number of deaths of local government functionaries linked to competition for positions and corruption. Among other conspicuous killings were those that occurred after the NFP (New Freedom Party) had split from the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party). As elsewhere, taxi-related violence remains endemic ,and may be politically-linked, and service delivery protests have increased. Political intolerance remains rife.
The context in which this entrenched political violence is situated is vastly different to that of two decades ago. KZN has become the biggest ANC supporting region in the country with its Metro, eThekwini, the largest in terms of delegates sent to national conferences. However, it is a deeply divided ANC. The divisions already apparent in the run up to Polokwane had increased and there were internal protests about corruption by 2011. In 2016 the Premier, Senzo Mchunu, who is seen pro-Cyril Ramaphosa, was replaced by President Zuma supporter Willies Mchunu, whose close associate Sihle Zikalala, had replaced Senzo Mchunu as ANC Chairperson in 2015 party elections. A High Court case to have these elections set aside is pending, with the Ramaphose-supporting Applicants claiming that they were irregular. An audit of branch membership is currently underway, and a number of ‘ghosts’ have already been found.
While there were deaths connected with these tensions prior to January 2016, such as those in Glebelands hostel, they escalated across the province as local government elections approached, with at least twenty killed in the first eight months of 2016 (these deaths exclude the killings which continued in Glebelands hostel). Six deaths were of IFP and NFP members, and fourteen were linked to ANC functionaries. Sixteen have died since the elections, and a number of people, including the three UMzimkhulu councillors shot on 13 July, injured.
Central to the pre-election struggles were efforts to ensure that the ‘pro Zuma’ faction was victorious in the selection of councillors. These struggles were conspicuous in eThekwini municipality, where the existing mayor, James Nxumalo – an SACP member seen to be in the RAmaphosa camp – was replaced by Zandile Gumede, a prominent Zuma supporter. Nxumalo’s home area at Ntshanga was one of the hardest hit by political assassinations. Special investigation teams have been deployed, but there have been only a handful of arrests.
The events in Durban’s Glebelands hostel should be seen in this broader context. With good reason (the hostels are in a shocking state) service delivery protests against the councillor, a staunch Zuma ally, started a few years ago. They were spearheaded by leaders of the different blocks who were then, from 2014, targeted by hit men allegedly linked to the councillor, with guns (including police issue) allegedly supplied by a police member accomplice. In addition to the estimated eighty nine deaths in just over three years countless residents, including women and children, have been illegally evicted by thugs demanding protection money and selling beds. There is overwhelming evidence of police complicity, both by acts of omission (standing by while evictions occur) and commission (malicious arrests of opponents of the councillor and torture; the first victim died while being tortured by the police). Among those who died were men who had indicated a willingness to stand as councillor. There has not yet been a single conviction for any of the killings.
This disgraceful situation continues because of the appalling mismanagement of the SAPS, characterised by political interference and nepotism. This is not a new problem but has become far worse since 2009. Detailed research on policing in the latter 1990s showed that there was no meaningful transformation whatsoever. Former right wing apartheid security policemen together with Bantustan police members, most promoted well beyond their levels of competence, remained in control. The fatal mistake made by the ANC government was its failure to recognise and promote competent black South African police members, many of whom, with valuable expertise and experience, left the service. To make matters worse, the ANC placed its own operatives, with no understanding of policing culture and procedures, in senior police positions, with disastrous consequences.
In the past eight years political interference, corruption and nepotism have increased significantly. Crime Intelligence is dysfunctional, too many detectives are badly trained (and/or corrupt), and the management of this component – like the province generally – is atrocious. Malicious arrests, brutality and torture are rife, and IPID is, at best, ineffectual. There are tremendous problems with prosecution services, which should be playing a more constructive role in guiding the police.
Politically motivated killings are part of the general problem of violent crime – and as long as crime pays it will continue. There is virtual anarchy in KZN, and an apparent lack of political will to address it. All South Africans should be outraged by the failure of the government to address problems in the criminal justice system and should use whatever powers they have as citizens to do something about it.


In South Africa a Casspir is, above all, a symbol of the brutal repression by the apartheid state of pro-liberation resistance in the townships in the 1980s, in which thousands of lives were lost. eThekwini municipality has now announced that it has purchased four of these vehicles, at a cost of R20 million, in order for its municipal police to deal with riot situations in the Metro, which presumably include protest action. The decision to deploy military-type vehicles in this manner sends a strong message that, like the apartheid government, the municipality is at war with its own citizens.
In terms of the governing legislation the job of Metro police forces is to (a) implement by-laws and regulations (b) police traffic violations and (c) prevent crime. Although members are peace officers they must hand over anyone they arrest to the SAPS. Is the municipality now arguing that it can prevent crime by the use of Casspirs? It is the South African Police Services which is constitutionally mandated to, among other things, combat crime and ‘to maintain public order…….and to uphold and enforce the law ‘ (Section 205(3). In accordance with the principle of co-operative governance, the Metro police may – and often do – engage in joint actions with the SAPS. It is the SAPS which has the components trained and equipped to maintain public order so there is no reason whatsoever for the Metro police to acquire vehicles of this type.
Of particular relevance is the nature of many protests. In 2016, as during other election periods, the worst protests in eThekwini, in terms of disruption and damage to property, were related to the selection of candidate councillors. Widespread destruction characterised such events in Folweni and the KwaMashu/northern city access areas – and also elsewhere in the province.
Service delivery lies behind many protests, for understandable reasons. Politicians make promises and raise expectations which are not met, and there is a lack of engagement and consultation with constituencies. The municipality has done away with housing lists and works on an opaque ‘priority’ award system in which there is no transparency around allocation. Councillors become involved in decisions about housing, dispensing patronage for votes. The municipality dishes out obscene amounts of money to favoured tenderpreneurs, who often build substandard housing which needs further maintenance. It should be assisting unemployed residents of shack areas with skills and employment to upgrade their living areas, or providing them with site and-service-land on which to build. As long as this unjust system prevails protests will continue. Protests are a symptom of bad governance.
To make matters worse, the Metro police is a bitterly divided force lacking coherent leadership. During the past five years a number of serious internal problems have been reported; these include members owning taxis, the disappearance of hundreds of police guns, and the open flouting of the law by police members. Recent alarming reports reveal that there are currently 1000 vacancies in the Metro force and that dedicated members are without resources to undertake crime prevention operations.
eThekwini has become notorious for ignoring warnings from Treasury about belt tightening. It reflected R1,2 billion in irregular expenditure in its 2015/16 audit, and regressed from a ‘clean’ to an ‘unqualified’ status. Instead of using the R20 million for service delivery, and the employment and equipping of Metro police, it has decided to splurge it on military vehicles. The intra-ANC factionalism in KZN extends to eThekwini Metro, and examples are also given of Metro police partisanship. In December 2016 the SACP, who have lost a number of supporters in Ntshanga – the home of former mayor James Nxumalo – claimed that the Metro police were acting as a private army for the ANC in the area. The current mayor is on record as wanting an ‘army base’ in Durban. Is this proposed acquisition of military vehicles part of some wider sinister plan?
It must be emphasised that there is no good reason whatsoever for spending R20 million on four Casspirs for a force which is understaffed, under-resourced and in a state of disarray – especially as it is not their job, but that of the South African Police Service, to maintain public order. An immediate review by provincial government of this proposed acquisition must take place with a view to halting it.


The recent release of an IPID report showing a ‘dramatic increase’ in deaths at the hands of the police is a timely reminder that not nearly enough has been done to address the type of police brutality which led the mowing down of students in Soweto in 1976, and miners at Marikana in 2012.
Although the IPID report for April to September 2016 showed an increase in deaths in custody and as a result of police action it should be noted that, despite annual fluctuations, many hundreds of people have died at the hands of the police annually in the past fifteen years. Abuse and torture (a very serious crime) is also widespread, and under-reported.
While there are many fine, hard working professional police members, there are also far too many who continue to use apartheid tactics. Some units have achieved notoriety. Members regularly raid rural, and poorer urban, areas, without search warrants, looking for guns. Doors may be kicked open, property damaged, and money stolen. Residents are assaulted or tortured, including by ‘tubing’, i.e. near suffocation with a plastic bag, which can lead to death. The first victim of the recent Glebelands violence died while being tubed during interrogation in March 2014. Glebelands resident Richard Nzama was arrested in July 2015 and subjected to particularly brutal torture – including tubing – which damaged his sight, hearing and teeth. Initially denied bail he did not get the medical attention ordered by the magistrate. Charges were withdrawn four months later(a common pattern). At least eleven cases of torture, including of a woman, were recorded in Glebelands, but most victims did not open cases. Overt threats, and the fear of consequences, result in serious under-reporting of torture cases.
Police members are not necessarily exempt from abuse. Inspector Maharaj, a member serving at a station in northern KZN, was arrested and charged with murdering police members during an ATM robbery in Mpumalanga province, and kept for many months without bail. In an attempt to extract a confession he was brutally tortured, including by tubing, and suffered serious injury to his arm. When his family finally managed to get medical attention for him he needed surgery. He finally secured competent legal representation and was given bail. The charges against him were subsequently withdrawn and it was alleged that the malicious arrest was orchestrated by police members who were themselves implicated in the crime.
Deaths reported as a result of police action may be linked to shoot-outs in which several people are killed. While police have the right to defend themselves when under attack from well armed criminals serious questions about some of these shootings arise from reports from sources who refuse to make statements to investigators for fear of their own safety. What is absolutely disgraceful is callous conduct towards, and emotional abuse of, the families of men killed in such incidents. In March 2017 five young men were killed in an alleged shoot-out with police near Pietermaritzburg. Families of the victims were never officially informed of the deaths of their loved-ones and some claimed that when they went to the crime scene they were threatened with tear gas if they tried to approach. However, crime scene photographs of the deceased had been posted on social media, causing further trauma to the grieving families. A few weeks later a policeman giving a talk to learners at a local high school referred to same incident saying that was how they dealt with criminals and, hearing that they knew the nineteen year old victim, boasted that he had shot him and that the learners should tell his parents that. Like the apartheid police such members and their management not only have no regard from the rule of law, now entrenched in our Constitution, but are in effect emotionally torturing innocent family members of people they have shot. Management has not responded to complaints.
This situation persists because virtually nothing has been done in twenty three years to change apartheid policing culture. Since 2008 the utterances of politicians from the President downwards have reinforced it. Police are badly trained and trigger-happy, and may even accidentally kill their own members during confrontations with suspected criminals. It must be emphasised that the blame lies with grossly incompetent and arrogant and unaccountable management – which is itself an indictment of political interference. One senior management member was frank enough to admit that the country cannot afford what is being paid out in claims against the police.
It also continues because there is a culture of virtual impunity. While there were thirty convictions for deaths as a result of police actions country-wide in 2015/16 (less than ten percent of reported cases) there were no convictions for deaths in custody. IPID itself is ineffectual and riddled with problems, seemingly ignoring its own governing legislation and regulations. Almost two years after Richard Nzama was tortured no identity parade has been held – despite ample available evidence. Similarly, shack resident VM almost died when tubed by a police member sitting astride him over a year ago and no ID parade has been held. As a direct consequence of the gross mismanagement of forensic mortuary services by the MEC for Health all experienced pathologists have resigned and, without mentoring, newly qualified specialists are likely to miss crucial evidence. The importance of good forensic evidence in criminal investigations cannot be over-emphasised so justice is being defeated.
IPID also needs more independence from the police. It should have its own crime investigation scene and ballistics evidence and not need to rely on the police. Nor should it report to the Minister of Police, but to an independent body, such as one headed by a retired judge.
In 2011 Constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos argued that instead of safeguarding democracy the police were turning into a force threatening its existence. This warning must be taken seriously for, despite the fallout from Marikana, nothing has changed. As Bob Dylan warned in his classic ‘Blowing in the Wind’, how much longer are we going to turn our heads and pretend not to see – and act against – this atrocious police brutality.


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.