SA ‘at risk from cops’

2008-10-24 00:00

South Africans should be concerned, as their safety at the hands of the SA Police Service is under threat, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

The ISS have raised concerns following the killing of seven suspects in the murder of Kranskop police station commissioner Senior Superintendent Zethembe Chonco in August.

After the seven killings, another suspect has been granted a court interdict preventing police from harming him.

Prince Mashele, the head of criminal justice and politics at the ISS, said many police officers have proved to be dangerous to suspects and society at large.

He said he established this through a study the ISS conducted with the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) recently. Officers take advantage of the fact that the ICD is toothless as a result of being under-resourced, he said.

“The ICD is the only body mandated to monitor the conduct of the police. We found that in many cases police do not comply with the law. This is because they are aware that the ICD is weak as a result of lack of human and material resources. They also lack the technical capacity they need to investigate police conduct … ” said Mashele.

Although he is aware of the Chonco murder suspects being killed by the police, Mashele declined to comment without detailed knowledge of the incidents.

Commenting on the court interdict granted to kwaMaphumulo Taxi Association member Bongani Mkhize against the police, Mashele said suspects have the right to protection if they fear their lives are in danger.

Mkhize, who is one of the suspects in Chonco’s murder, said in his application he fears police might also kill him. None of the suspects in the murder have been arrested.

The judge ordered that Mkhize’s lawyer must be present during his arrest and interrogation.

ICD spokeswoman Dikeledi Phiri, who did not have details of the killing of the Chonco suspects, said that although the unit is under-resourced, it has secured a large number of convictions, although she could not provide figures.

KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said she has suspicions that Chonco’s murder was an inside job.

“So the killing of all these suspects raises serious questions, not only because they were, for the most part, suspects, but also because if they were implicated in the killing of Chonco they were probably hit men hired by other/s — and since they are dead they will not be able to tell us who the others were, and it is possible that they were police members,” said De Haas, adding that the justice system should act against the killing of the suspects.

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