Rising police budget for torture claims
Though the police face a litany of new torture allegations, the service insists that only a few of its members are guilty of it.
The police made the claim as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate launched its investigation into allegations that some of the nearly 200 Lonmin miners arrested in connection with the deadly violence at the Marikana platinum mine were tortured.
Assault allegations against the police were made by 194 miners at three North West police stations at the weekend.
Today the directorate will give its response to the miners' allegations.
Police spokesman Colonel Vish Naidoo said that though he "cannot deny rogue officers exist in the force, a fraction of that fraction step outside the boundaries of the law".
He said allegations of police brutality were used by suspects "to strengthen their defence".
Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini said that, in 2011, 46 charges of torture were brought against the police.
Water-boarding, suffocation and electrocution were among the methods said to have been used on suspects, he said.
DA MP and police spokesman Dianne Kohler Barnard said few of the police officers suspected of torture were suspended despite recommendations by the directorate.
"There is a belief that the police can act with impunity," she said. "What we see now is the increased militarisation of the police.
"I have warned about this for years," she said, referring to former police chief Bheki Cele's "shoot to kill" instruction.
The ever-rising budget for civil claims against the police - it rose nearly 50%, from R7.5-billion in 2009-2010 to R11-billion in 2010-2011 - showed that the police expected lawsuits to be brought against them, said Kohler Barnard.
Monica Bandeira, a researcher for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the budget increase was "very serious" because it indicated that the police expected a rise in lawsuits."
She said it was difficult to track the incidence of torture in police custody because torture was not defined as a crime. Torture complaints are often registered as assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm or attempted murder.
Allegations of torture being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate include:
- Three Honeydew police officers and one from Diepsloot were arrested for the murder of a suspect in February;
- Modimolle police station commander charged in March with assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm for assaulting a man asking for assistance;
- A Klerksdorp policewoman was arrested for murder last month;
- Six Durban policemen were arrested for sexually assaulting a man with a broomstick last month;
- Thirteen Bellville policemen are awaiting trial for kidnapping and the attempted murder of three suspects, and a murder relating to torture allegations;
- Twenty Klerksdorp policemen are on trial for assaulting suspects going back to 2010;
- Two Ulundi policemen were sentenced last month to 36 years in prison for murdering two suspects.