Viewfinder: Police Brutality: How SAPS protects the killers within its ranks

2021-05-12 03:14:00 PM

Did this pattern by cops escalate to murder, then continue unchecked? A new investigation by @viewfinderjourn exposes how @SAPoliceService management protects the killers within its ranks: #AboveTheLaw

Abovethelaw, Eastern Cape

Did this pattern by cops escalate to murder, then continue unchecked? A new investigation by viewfinderjourn exposes how SA Police Service management protects the killers within its ranks: AboveTheLaw

Every year, police in South Africa kill hundreds of people and are accused of brutalising thousands more. A new investigation by Viewfinder has revealed that the killings and brutality are enabled by police management’s reluctance to discipline officers accused of wrongdoing in these cases. This is true even when watchdog investigations conclude that these officers should be disciplined. Given free rein to reoffend, problem officers may become emboldened. For their victims, the consequences can be dire.

All but one of the six officers who faced a departmental hearing for Ramncwana’s arrest and alleged killing were acquitted, according to IPID in the Eastern Cape. But, the outcome report, seen by Viewfinder, was short on detail and reasons. When queried on the case, SAPS in the Eastern Cape refused to comment. “Internal disciplinary measures taken against any employees are a matter between the employer and the employees,” said police spokesperson Sibongile Soci.

“It’s so demoralising,” said Leholo, reflecting on the lack of transparency in SAPS disciplinary hearings and outcomes.case against the (police) member. And there is no justification for the brutalisation of the victim. Then you find out down the line a matter is thrown out on the basis of technicality – a technicality, I emphasise, that does not exist… I do not think it is fair to the victims.”

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decide on guilt or innocence and hand down a sanction) are all police officers.Mandela, 27, told DispatchLIVE his legal team was writing to police minister Bheki Cele, national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole and Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga about his intention to sue the police service for police brutality.Police minister Bheki Cele's office said yesterday they were investigation the incident which is said to have occurred last week.12 May 2021 - 07:21 By Keith Coffman The handgun was not purchased by Macias, and detectives are still investigating how he came in possession of the weapon, Frabbiele said, adding that it was not reported stolen.

“We’ve asked many times in the past, ‘please involve us, invite us to these disciplinary hearings’. (SAPS management) made it clear that they prefer for us not to be involved,” Geerdts said during a recent interview.30pm on Saturday when they were stopped by four police officers. All but one of the six officers who faced a departmental hearing for Ramncwana’s arrest and alleged killing were acquitted, according to IPID in the Eastern Cape.. But, the outcome report, seen by Viewfinder, was short on detail and reasons. They forced me down and I sustained bruises on my face when they put their boots on my head to suppress me. When queried on the case, SAPS in the Eastern Cape refused to comment.” “At the core of this horrendous act is domestic violence,” Niski said in discussing the motive behind the rampage.

“Internal disciplinary measures taken against any employees are a matter between the employer and the employees,” said police spokesperson Sibongile Soci.. Last week, Viewfinder provided SAPS in the Eastern Cape with a list of 36 case numbers registered between 2012 and 2016. These included assault and other allegations against the officers implicated in Ramncwana’s killing and against Whittlesea police officers, in general. The SAPS Eastern Cape media centre acknowledged receipt, but it did not respond to a query about whether any officers had been disciplined for any of these cases. According to IPID data, only 2 of these cases had led to disciplinary convictions by the end of March 2020. All were part of an extended family.

Low sanctions “It’s so demoralising,” said Leholo, reflecting on the lack of transparency in SAPS disciplinary hearings and outcomes. “IPID investigators put a lot of effort into these investigations. And, you’ve got a strong or prima facie case against the (police) member. And there is no justification for the brutalisation of the victim. Then you find out down the line a matter is thrown out on the basis of technicality – a technicality, I emphasise, that does not exist… I do not think it is fair to the victims.

” Annelizé van Wyk, former chair of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police (PCP), was instrumental in drafting the IPID Act of 2011. She agrees that regulatory technicalities cannot reasonably supersede the intention of the law. The intention of this law, she says, was that IPID recommendations would be binding, and that SAPS would enforce swift discipline against officers found on the wrong end of these. Former chair of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police, Annelizé van Wyk (photo: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp) Yet, even a disciplinary conviction is no guarantee of proper accountability. In the fraction of IPID cases which result in disciplinary convictions, the sanctions handed down are often light: Small fines, suspended sentences or warnings which are struck from a convicted officer’s personnel file within a matter of months.

Because SAPS’s departmental processes are so opaque, even to IPID, it is difficult to know exactly why this is. One explanation, Geerdts believes, is that though officers may be accused of very serious transgressions, departmental hearings only find them guilty of lesser charges of misconduct. IPID has confirmed that one of the officers accused of misconduct in the killing of Phindile Ramncwana was convicted in a hearing. He was suspended for two months without pay, but kept his job. He is still on duty at Whittlesea police station today, according to a check of the government’s PERSAL system by a Viewfinder source.

A slow collapse of police discipline Research by the Dullah Omar Institute has found that the reluctance of police management to enforce IPID recommendations occurs against a backdrop of a slow decline in SAPS management’s ability to enforce discipline. Even though there has been no significant decline in the number of killings and alleged brutality reported to IPID in recent years, SAPS Annual Reports statistics show that there has been a marked decline in the number of officers brought before disciplinary hearings and convicted (across all categories of alleged misconduct, not just ones related to the use of force). Reported killings and brutality by police have remained relatively consistent in recent years, while the number of disciplinary hearings and convictions across all categories of misconduct have been declining steadily. (Data visualisation: Viewfinder) For an officer fairly accused of one-off assault, management’s increasing apathy towards discipline amounts to a big let-off. For vigilantes, sadists or repeat offenders, it gives virtual free rein.

They may commit and recommit abuses in the knowledge that they will probably never be fired by their employers. As repeat offenders go unchecked, the severity of their crimes often escalates, concludes Leholo. IPID case data show that Ramncwana’s alleged killing was probably the culmination of a pattern of brutality at Whittlesea police station (in general) and by a group of police officers (in specific). And, six of the officers accused of misconduct for his arrest and killing were implicated in violent crimes in the months to follow. In each instance IPID investigated and recommended that the officers be disciplined.

Its records show that this routinely did not happen. A pattern of brutality left unchecked? IPID complaints data show that officers accused of misconduct for Ramncwana’s arrest and killing had pending assault cases against their names or would reportedly go on to reoffend. (Animation produced by Viewfinder). Viewfinder has established that two of the officers accused in the Ramncwana case were eventually discharged from the police and one has also resigned from the service. Yet, SAPS Eastern Cape’s failure to respond to queries meant that Viewfinder could not verify whether these dismissals and resignation were as a result of disciplinary action for known cases against these officers.

Last week, Viewfinder submitted a query detailing many of the facts, findings and concerns from IPID officials contained in this article to SAPS national management. SAPS spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe confirmed receipt and said that the query had been sent to SAPS “personnel management” for response. SAPS had not responded at time of publication. A loss of faith Sada is the product of successive forced removals. The first families were trucked here by the apartheid government from their homes on white-owned farms around Queenstown in the 1960s.

Then families were brought from further afield – from Tarkastad and Adelaide, from Molteno and Port Alfred and eventually from the Western Cape and what was then the Transvaal. Forced removals at Kammaskraal, near Peddie in the former Ciskei, in 1982 (photo: Ben Maclennan / Surplus People Project/UCT Libraries Special Collections) Repressed for decades and still desperately poor, Sada is the type of community that policymakers had in mind when drafting a human-rights-centred mission for the post-apartheid police service. For Esther Kasam, the failure of that mission is personal, not a datapoint. She loved Phindile Ramncwana like a son, she says. In a community where even food is scarce, she cooked for him and he built a kitchen sink for her to say thank you.

Her husband and this younger man were best friends. Kasam is 85 years old. In the late 1960s her family and her husband’s were taken from their homes on a farm outside Tarkastad, loaded onto trucks, and brought to Sada under police guard. For her, the police were a scourge then. They still are today.

Esther Kasam (photo: Anton Scholtz) “My heart is broken,” she says, remembering how she and her neighbours followed in a procession behind the wheelbarrow taking Ramncwana to Sada Clinic. “I have never recovered. I cannot stand to interact with the police. I don’t want their greetings.” DM/MC Viewfinder and GroundUp.

This investigation was funded by the Henry Nxumalo Fund for Investigative Reporting, Luminate, Millennium Trust and GroundUp. This article was edited by GroundUp. Header poster design by Alex Noble, with photos by Alaister Russell for The Citizen and Ashraf Hendricks for GroundUp. .