South African Police brutality

Posted on Mar 4 2013 - 5:06pm by Benjamin Fogel
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The police in South Africa have taken yet another life, this time that of a 27 year old Mozambiquan Taxi Driver in Daveyton a neighbourhood in East Johannesburg . Mido Marcia was killed for parking on the wrong side of the road and having the gall to challenge the officer attempting to arrest him. For this he was handcuffed to the back of a police truck and dragged several hundred meters down the road in front of a crowd amassed at a taxi rank. Later it seems like he was beaten to death by police officers in a cell in a two hour assault.

In his death, but not through any deed of his own he joins the ranks of those recently slain by the police beginning with Andries Tatane in Ficksburg a few years ago and that of Mambush- or the man with the Green Blanket as he has become known in popular representations.

Despite some truly despicable police spin, there was evidence that would not go away, in this case the initial incident was caught on film and handed to the Daily Sun a mass circulation tabloid who exposed the footage which has since gone ‘viral’.

Such footage of police brutality lives gives little room for the police chiefs and political class to slink away from comment or responsibility into. Despite the Marikana massacre taking place in front of much of the worlds and South Africa’s media, such room was more than available that time round. All

The same politicians, public figures and commentators who were silent after the 34 murders, which occurred on The 16th of August at Marikana, now, surprise, surprise strongly condemn Macia’s murder. But what do they say about the other 932 lives taken by the police last year? For the record not a single police officer has been charged with anything following last year’s massacre.

“Members of the South African police service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties. The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner,” said President Zuma. National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega also expressed het deep concern about the incident. Her spokesperson Brigadier Phuti Setati, said: “The matter is viewed by the National Commissioner in a very serious light and it is strongly condemned.”

Last year 774 people were killed by the police a number roughly equivalent to the number killed by the apartheid police force during the height of the anti-apartheid uprising in the years of 1985 and 1986, when townships across the country were on fire and the apartheid state lost control of much of the country. A time when children were shot with buckshot for throwing stones at armoured cars and blowing off the head of a ‘communist’ was considered good sport.

The roots of South Africa’s culture of police violence are not that hard to unearth, they range from the paranoia of the middle class in regards to crime, a institutional culture of police violence towards black bodies and minds- a hangover from apartheid, the need to protect the structural violence of the grotesquely unequal satus quo and a global process of the militarization of the police which really got into gear here in the build up in the world cup. South Africa is a still a profoundly violent society,

In the same week as this incident took place, just to take a small sample, there have been at least two reports that police abducted and gang raped women, one of which who died after her ordeal. To go back a little bit, to a story which didn’t warrant and intervention from president Zuma in the form of a token condemnation.

“On 18 February, the case against police constable Hlengiwe Mkhize was wrapped up in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Mkhize was convicted of murder and attempted murder for shooting and killing 15-year-old Mlindeli Ngcobo. Ngcobo was riding in a car that was in an accident with the constable’s. Both parties agreed to report the incident at the police station, but Mkhize fired two shots into the car and killed the teenager, who was hit in the head. She claimed it was an attempted hijacking and that she had only intended to fire warning shots, but will be sentenced on 1 March.”

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About the Author

Benjamin Fogel is a writer and activist based in South Africa, he also edits the amandla blog