South African police accused of brutality and torture

'This is not what we fought for,' says Ronnie Kasrils. 'Nelson Mandela would have been outraged'

LAST UPDATED AT 09:47 ON Fri 17 May 2013

SOUTH AFRICA'S police service have been accused of brutality and even torture by one of the country's most respected veterans of the anti-apartheid years.

Ronnie Kasrils, who served in the first democratically-elected South African Government in the 1990s, has told Sky News: "This is not what we fought for. The Nelson Mandela I know would have been outraged at the police brutality."

Kasrils's comments follow a torrent of bad publicity for the police service, which began last August when 34 striking miners were shot dead by police at Marikana, a slaughter that is currently the subject of a national inquiry.

Then, in February this year, footage emerged of police in Johannesburg handcuffing a man to a van and dragging him down the street for 400m after an argument about parking. The man, a 27-year-old taxi driver, later died from his injuries.

According to Sky News, police violence is routine on the streets of South Africa with victims complaining that they have been "beaten, kicked and hit with sjamboks" (heavy whips made from animal hide). One man said he had been tortured by police into making a false confession.

The broadcaster spoke to one young Muslim woman who has mobile phone footage showing her being pinned to the ground and throttled by a policeman. Naazneen Kadir told Sky that two officers came to her house in southern Johannesburg after a complaint she was making too much noise. She alleged she was assaulted and only the intervention of her mother saved her from further punishment.

When the accusations of brutality were put to the South African Police Service (SAPS), Brigadier Neville Malila dismissed them as just "a few bad apples" caused by people filming a isolated incidents. He told Sky that official statistics actually showed a slight decrease in reports of police brutality.

Kasrils remains unconvinced, however, and has called on the ANC government to act. "This is systemic in the police force and someone has to take responsibility for it," he said. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.