Police brutality is “of serious concern”, police minister Bheki Cele said, as he admitted that allegations of wrongdoing had damaged the SAPS’ image.
Recent high profile cases — in particular the killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba, a bystander who was shot during police clashes with protesting university students in Johannesburg a month ago — have once again thrust the issue of police brutality into the national spotlight.
EFF MP Rosina Komane asked Cele: “Whether he has found the growing number of civilians who are either killed and/or assaulted by the SA Police Service (SAPS) to be a matter of concern; if not, why not; if so, what steps has his department taken to sensitise SAPS members towards the need to treat citizens humanely?”
Cele responded: “The rights to life and bodily integrity of every person are important. The loss of any life or the violation of the bodily integrity of any person, including members of the SAPS, is of serious concern.”
The minister added that SAPS discipline regulations should be seen as a “cornerstone”, and be central to policing.
“This could enable the organisation to succeed in its transformation agenda and thus instil confidence and public trust. The involvement of SAPS members in crime, corruption and reports of brutality, have become serious obstacles to transform the organisation and continues to dent the image of the SAPS.
“A significant number of SAPS members are facing criminal charges, some remain under investigation, suspension and some are dismissed already. Internal SAPS disciplinary procedures are premised on two approaches, namely negative discipline and progressive discipline, intended respectively, to punish and correct behaviour,” he said.
Cele said that the SAPS had issued various policies around issues of use of force by police.
“The SAPS is committed to uphold the constitution of the RSA, including the Bill of Rights. It is of the utmost importance that every SAPS member must execute his or her duties within the ambit of the law and according to detailed directives, provided by the SAPS. The relevant legislation and SAPS internal policies and directives, provide detailed guidance to police members in the execution of their duties, including in respect of the use of force.
“Members of the SAPS are obliged to adhere to and uphold the law. The use of force during arrest is subject to the requirements of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality,” he said.