Durban – SAPS members in KwaZulu-Natal are literally getting away with murder, torture and assault, the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into political killings heard on Wednesday.
IPID’s ethics manager Amar Maharaj told the commission that he was there “to provide evidence in the interest of justice” after violence monitor Vanessa Burger described the province’s Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) as dysfunctional and failing to hold officers accountable.
Burger testified in July that police were not politically independent. She had said police trying to do decent work were “politically smacked down”.
Cases were being interfered with and statements were being fabricated, she said.
“It is true that the IPID office in KZN is dysfunctional,” Maharaj confirmed on Wednesday.
He referred to two cases which were reported in Isipingo and Umlazi in 2014, where no recommendations relating to both of their closures were made to the IPID’s master recommendations register.
He said the cases of civilians Zinakile Fica and Xolisa Yena who were allegedly tortured by police officers, were only recorded by IPID 17 months after the actual crimes were committed.
Fica was allegedly tortured on March 3, 2015, while Yena was allegedly tortured on March 14, 2014.
According to his research, Maharaj said the IPID had closed hundreds of cases without investigating the matters properly.
“The completion of Yena’s case is consistent with the disclosures to the ethics office of cases being completed without proper investigation [in order] to record monthly statistics,” he said.
One of the cases was closed just because the investigating officer could not trace a witness, he added.
“That is not acceptable,” he said.
In some instances, officers closed more than 40 cases in one day in a rush to achieve performance statistics and get bonuses, Maharaj added.
‘Recorded as assault instead of torture’
During the 2014/15 financial year, 20 cases were recorded against police in Umlazi with only eight of them being recorded as assault.
Maharaj said he found it strange that none of those cases had been recorded as torture cases for that period. Instead, all but one of those assault matters were closed.
Usually, cases were closed after they had been fully investigated and after they had gone to court, he said. However, most cases against the police in KZN were of torture.
This alleged torture was usually carried out when a plastic packet was placed over a victim’s face until they passed out. He used Yena and Fica’s cases as typical examples.
The plastic bag method was used in both their cases.
“It is of concern to me that most of these cases have been recorded as assault instead of torture,” he said.
The commission, which is investigating the underlying causes of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, heard that Maharaj had gone as far as writing a memorandum to IPID boss Robert McBride on October 17, 2014, informing him about some of the “discrepancies” and complaints he had received from investigators. Both Maharaj and McBride had arrived in KZN to visit the provincial offices.
In the memorandum, Maharaj said investigators in the province were reporting that “the people who are evaluating you, ask you to complete cases”.
The officers also complained that some senior members in management were pushing for the turn-around time of cases going from active to complete to be quicker.
This meant that cases were not receiving adequate time dedicated to their investigation, Maharaj told the commission.
“Investigators reported that often post-mortem reports are not collected,” he added.
One investigator reported that SAPS members were literally getting away with murder, assault and torture, Maharaj said.
“He [ the investigator] further said they are asked to take the files to Director of Public Prosecutions just to get a signature and the file is completed.”
This problem was not only in KZN but across IPID nationally, he said.
The hearings continue.
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