THE horrific images of Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia being dragged behind a police van on the eve of human rights month have taken public opinion of the SA Police Service (SAPS) to an alarming new low. For many in the country the visuals took us back to the kind of treatment meted out by apartheid era South African Police (SAP).
Almost two decades after the end of apartheid, we are certain that the two are different institutions, but the continuities of abuse must be acknowledged and understood.
There is no doubt in the eyes of the public that Macia was subjected to gross human rights violations at the hands of law enforcers. This treatment resulted in his death and in spite of the police version that Macia had violated traffic regulations, there can never be justification for the gross human rights violations meted out against him.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) strongly condemns all forms of police brutality, excessive use of force and unauthorised violence perpetrated against anyone. The ill-treatment of Macia and the alleged subsequent beating in the police holding cells amounts to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, under the "definition of torture" in the UN Convention against Torture article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the Robben Island Guidelines on Torture.
The CSVR's research and work with survivors and victims of torture in South Africa has demonstrated that the effects of these violations often leads to victims later perpetrating violence themselves, and undermines public confidence in the police and other state institutions. Since the Marikana mine shooting, there has been a consistent focus on the negative aspects of police activity.
While recognising the difficult challenges faced by the police in South Africa, recent events emphasise the need for an urgent response to violent police behaviour and levels of violence in general in South African society. The CSVR calls on the state, relevant state oversight bodies, civil society and South African citizens to respond.
The state must provide clear and decisive leadership. The CSVR welcomes statements by President Jacob Zuma and police commissioner Riah Phiyega on the incident, but a more sustainable response is required.
We urge parliament to ensure that the Combating of Torture of Persons Bill is rigorously reviewed, considered and passed into law. With the absence of specific anti-torture legislation, Macia's violators may well be charged with murder but escape prosecution for torture.
Torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment did not disappear with the end of apartheid in South Africa.
The state must of necessity ensure full redress for the victim's family. This should include compensation and restitution where necessary, rehabilitation or psycho-social support for the trauma and loss sustained.
It should also ensure all the facts of the incident are provided, and there are guarantees of non-repetition to the community of Daveyton and the South African society as a whole. We note that through statements delivered by the police commissioner and the presidency, those responsible have begun to provide redress, but more is required.
In order to achieve full redress there is a need for sufficient resourcing and capacity enhancement of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), responsible for investigating alleged criminal offences by members of SAPS. While the IPID has representation in all nine provinces the extent to which the directorate is spread to remote parts of the country is questionable.
The IPID does not have sufficient human capacity and other resources to investigate adequately the complaints that come to it.
Shuvai Nyoni, for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation