South 2 North

Who polices the police?

As two people die in custody every day in South Africa, we discuss rising police brutality and the issues behind it.

Last Modified: 16 Mar 2013 07:23
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No subject is off limits in the first ever global talk show hosted from Africa in which Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

A cell phone video of taxi driver Mido Macia being dragged behind a police van in Daveyton, South Africa made headlines around the world. He died from his injuries in a police cell, bringing issues of police brutality in South Africa into sharp focus.

At least two people die in police custody every day in South Africa. With a rise in allegations of torture, rape and extrajudicial killings against the South African police, who polices the police? And how does police violence in South Africa compare with the rest of the world?

This week, South Africa Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega was called to give evidence before the Farlam commission in relation to the Marikana shootings, which saw police gun down 34 striking miners in August last year.

She joins South2North to talk about the Macia case and the issues behind police brutality in South Africa.

"It was one incident too many. And when you see it at any given time you cringe. The South African Police Service employs 200,000 police who are at work on a daily basis, who make millions of arrests .... I would say for any given service as large as ours, you are bound to get such incidences. But when you get them, it's what you do with them."

Phiyega and Redi discuss whether or not violent police are a reaction to brazenly violent criminals, and what role the constitution plays in defining the role of the police.

The second guest, Eldred de Klerk, has advised governments and institutions across the world on how to solve complex political emergencies including public order policing, organised crime and conflict resolution.

De Klerk argues that while police do have to carry out their services, they still have to treat the people they are both protecting, or arresting, with basic human rights.

"There are limitations to rights ... with rights come responsibilities. What we cannot excuse is indignity. Because even when I get arrested … my dignity still has to be maintained .... That kind of professionalism we unfortunately don't see with our police," he says.

Also joining South2North is Noel Kututwa, who heads Amnesty International's Southern Africa office, which recently released stark figures showing a rise in allegations of torture, rape and extrajudicial killings within the police in South Africa.

Kututwa explains that Amnesty has seen a consistent pattern of police brutality since 2000.

"It's only a few that tend to taint the whole police force .... Those few bad apples are the ones that are very visible, and most of these crimes are committed either at road blocks, or in the open. It then taints the entire police force and because members of the public are not savvy when it comes to policing issues, they then become very scared and they lose trust of the police," Kututwa says.

Redi challenges all three guests to find practical solutions to end police brutality while still acknowledging that South African Police Service works in one of the most violent countries in the world.


South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.


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