POLICE BRUTALITY COMMON IN SOUTH AFRICA
By: Tankiso Moshoeshoe
It has become apparent that some police officials in the new democratic South Africa have adopted violence as a way of dealing with situations.
Incidents like the Marikana massacre and the Soweto teenage girl that was attacked by policemen are examples of the police brutality that has become all too common in South Africa.
Yearly reports reveal continuous brutal attacks of police on innocent victims are usually in the name of interrogation of suspects. According to statistics found in the The Guardian.com, reports of police brutality in South Africa have soared by 313% in a decade. Cases of police brutality jumped from 416 during 2001-2002 to 1.722 cases by 2011-2012. It also states that only 1% of criminal cases opened against police officials end in conviction.
In Umzimkulu, south of Durban, an incident occurred involving the abuse of power by police. The story of 17-year-old Songezo Matyana from Ibisi township in Umzimkulu touched a lot of community members when the boy shared his story of how the police constantly tortured him for what they said was ‘the truth’.
“My uncle accused me of stealing money from his bed-room. I guess this whole incident was a coincidence because the money disappeared on a weekend when I was also moneyed. It was the same weekend I bought drinks for my friends.
I guess this gave the police and my uncle the idea that I stole the money,” said Matyana.
Matyana says he also happened to use a bicycle that connected to the evidence of the bicycle trails found by the police which made the police sure that he was involved in the crime.
“My uncle helped the police beat me up- he slapped me a couple of times and the police did the rest. The police tied me up on a bench and beat me up, sprayed pepper spray in a plastic bag and suffocated me,” added Matyana.
Matyana was found lying helplessly beaten and unconscious on the side of the road. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was treated. He is adamant that he wants the policemen and his uncle to pay for what they did to him.
“I want them arrested and I want to sue them for accusing and beating me up for a crime I did not commit,” said Songezo.
Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane says the police are not abusing their power. They are doing their job.
“If they are abusing their power, each citizen has a right to report such cases to station commanders or any of the authorities.”
Another police official, *Thabo Mkhize said, “I haven’t seen this happening, but instead I see police being killed.”
“Stories about police attacking people don’t surprise me anymore. It saddens me to turn on the news and find stories like these. When I saw the story about Masia from Mozambique being dragged to death behind a police-car I was horrified!” Baai added that the Marikana incident was another example of police brutality.
“Recently in the news we come across a report that a young teenage girl was attacked by police and died the next day after she suffered injuries following an alleged beating from the police who wanted answers about her ‘gangster’ boyfriend,” stated Odwa Baai.
The main concern is whether we as citizens are going to feel safe around those who are should be protecting us. Police brutality was somewhat common during the apartheid era. Sadly, 20 years down the line … it is still evident.
*Not real name