The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has published new data on the number of complaints it has received about the country’s SAPS members during lockdown.
In a parliamentary presentation on Wednesday (29 April), the group noted that since the declaration of the State of Disaster, reports began to surface on social media and the news of police and soldier abuse of members of the population.
In addition, there were reports of deaths of members of the public at the hands of police officers and deployed soldiers.
“The IPID mandate is not suspended during the lockdown and IPID is supposed to investigate all incidents of police misconduct during the lockdown,” it said.
“The incidents of police misconduct for the last financial year shows that there has been a 3% increase in general misconduct between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years.”
The group noted that the overwhelming number of reported cases it deals with involves section 28(f) assault which amounts to 3,835 cases for the 2018/19 financial year.
This is a 5% increase from the 2017/18 financial year of 3661 cases. The number of deaths in police custody increased by 6% from 201 in2017/18 to 214 in 2018/19.
During the lockdown period
The total IPID intake cases are provided for during the lockdown period which ranges from 26 March 2020 to 17 April 2020.
These are verified cases reported to IPID and includes all the cases which fall directly under its mandate.
However, it is important to note that while there are a total of 403 reported cases, not all relates directly to police misconduct during the lockdown period.
“It is instructive to note that many civil society organisations initially reported that there were more deaths as a result of the heavy-handedness of the police than the Covid -19 pandemic,” the group said.
“This is not supported by the statistics as the numbers of fatal casualties does not appear to be as high as claimed by civil society organisations.
“However, in the same breath, the number of assaults by police officers are quite high and is something that should be considered whether it has occurred within the period of the lockdown or not.”
The IPID added that there may be validity in such claims of police abusing the rights of members of the public considering that there have been a total of 271 reported assaults by police officers in the period 26 March to 17 April 2020.
The IPID noted that the numbers of deaths as a result of police action that is being investigated by the IPID for the same period stands at 21 and the number of deaths in police custody is at nine.
The provinces accounting for the most incidents include Gauteng (67), Western Cape (81), Gauteng (67), KwaZulu-Natal (52) and Free State (49).
As indicated, the statistics provided are the total reported cases and includes cases directly related to police actions as a result of policing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The below table provides an indication of the number of cases directly related to police actions and misconduct related to policing the Covid-19 pandemic.
It shows that in total there are 199 reported cases being investigated by IPID which includes five deaths as a result of police action and no deaths in police custody.
In addition, 152 cases of assault are being investigated while IPID is also reviewing five allegations of corruption.
In total, the Covid-19 cases account for just under half (49.3%) of all the cases investigated by the IPID for the period 26 March – 17 April 2020.
“This may rise as incidents are reported,” IPID said.
“However, the five deaths as a result of police action during the Covid -19 period under review is concerning and should raise questions why people were killed by police officers when the direct order of the President was for the police to be compassionate and respect people’s dignity.”