Cops shot 566 last year
Cape Town - Altogether 860 people died at the hands of police or in their custody last year, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) said on Thursday.
ICD executive director Francois Beukman told a media briefing marking the release of the watchdog body's latest annual report, 294 suspects died in custody and a further 566 people were killed by police.
Of those, 46% died during the course of arrest and many others while a crime was under way.
Beukman said seven people were "tortured" to death.
The total number of deaths was six percent down on the previous year.
Thirty-one percent of the killings occurred in KwaZulu-Natal, 22% in Gauteng, and 10% in the Eastern Cape.
In all, 6 375 complaints about police conduct were brought to the ICD over the past 12 months.
"It is important to note that not all cases lodged with the police could be substantiated. Sometimes we found that they had acted within the boundaries of the law and sometimes there was not enough evidence."
Forty-seven police officers were found guilty of serious crimes and summarily dismissed, IDC spokesperson Moses Dlamini said.
Of those, 25 were convicted in relation to deaths in custody. The sentences handed down included 18 years in prison.
Dlamini said the statistics showed that "police don't get away with murder".
Beukman said the ICD's investigative capacity was being reinforced, and having recourse to independent forensic opinion had allowed it to uncover the murder by police of an Eastern Cape farmer.
Police shot the man and concealed the crime by reporting that he was run over by a tractor.
The ICD obtained permission to exhume his body and a post mortem by independent pathologists confirmed that he had in fact been murdered.
"We were able to secure a conviction," Beukman said.