- Police Minister Bheki Cele says SAPS may use deadly force to defend themselves and to protect innocent lives.
- He made these statements during a hybrid sitting of the NCOP, where he gave details of complaints against the police.
- Since the start of the lockdown, 49 cases of police brutality have been reported.
The government does not support police brutality, but Police Minister Bheki Cele has said police officers will use deadly force to defend themselves and to protect innocent lives.
Cele gave this stern warning during a virtual sitting of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday, where he gave details of the complaints against SAPS during the nationwide lockdown.
MPs also wanted details on the number of police brutality cases reported and the status of the cases.
Cele said between 27 March and 22 June, 49 cases of police brutality were reported.
Most of the cases were reported in Gauteng (15), KwaZulu-Natal (10) and the Western Cape (nine).
"Of the investigations, 36 were so far finalised. Of that 36 cases, 20 were found to be valid charges and one resulted in disciplinary action against an officer. No criminal charges have been instituted in any of the matters that were finalised," Cele said, adding that 13 cases are still pending an investigation.
He also said, whenever a case of police brutality is reported, it will be investigated before any action will be taken against an officer.
Cele said police must act within the ambit of the law, but he made it clear that police are allowed by law to use deadly force if they are under attack or to protect innocent lives.
"Police are constantly reminded of the human rights framework they work under. Nobody supports police brutality, but police will use proportional force to defend themselves and protect innocent lives. They are also allowed to use deadly force and that is what the law says, not me," Cele said.
The police and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been criticised for the use of brutal force during lockdown operations.
Most notably, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has recommended disciplinary action should be taken against members of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and police members allegedly involved in the assault and death of Collins Khosa in April.
Khosa was allegedly assaulted by members of the SANDF during the lockdown when they saw a half-consumed glass of beer in his yard.
According to court papers, they kicked and punched Khosa, holding his hands behind his back while they choked and beat him, slammed him against the wall, and used the butt of a machine gun to hit him.
Cele, however, gave MPs the assurance that police management will take steps against officers who do not act within the law.
"We have structures internally and then there is the Independent Police Investigative Directorate that oversees the actions of police. We subject ourselves to all these processes and we listen to other people regarding our action," he said.