Torture in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [South Africa]  [other countries]

Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century                                                          

Republic of South Africa

South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region.

However, unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth.

Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: SouthAfrica

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in South Africa.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.

*** ARCHIVES ***

Leeuwkop Max C: Inmates claim abuse and torture, turn to courts for relief

Carolyn Raphaely, senior journalist, Wits Justice Project (WJP), University of the Witwatersrand, 22 Aug 2014

[accessed 15 September 2014]

After Llewellyn Smith was brutally assaulted, stripped naked, electro-shocked and tortured in the Leeuwkop Max C prison showers last week, his wife Malanie brought an urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court requesting that her husband was granted permission to see a private medical practitioner, that he was x-rayed and permitted to lay charges with the SAPS

According to Malanie, “six inmates – including my husband - were taken separately to the showers and repeatedly shocked with “boards” or electric shock shields. They were made to squat and after each shock, the warders put their fingers up their anus’ to search for contraband. Llewellyn told me he was the second last to go into the showers. He said the shower floors were full of faeces which must have been from the other guys who were taken there before him…When you are shocked it makes you defecate….”

Torture made me finger others: accused

South African Press Association SAPA, Nelspruit, 19 June 2014

[accessed 20 June 2014]

One of the two men accused of stealing 112 pieces of rhino horn from the MpumalangaTourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) testified that police torture led him to falsely implicate three other people in the crime.

“I was covered with a plastic over my head and a blanket from the neck down. Since I was handcuffed and could not move, they stepped on my knees, kicked me on my mouth which made me to lie,” he said.

“At that stage, I was not wearing my shoes. A policeman took them and used them to beat me up. The torture stopped there and they said they would do to Mtshali what they did to me,” he said.

Man tortured for days by cops gets R250 000

Zelda Venter, Pretoria News, 4 June 2014

[accessed 14 September 2014]

Police tortured a Soweto man over several days, trying to suffocate him with a plastic bag, dripping melting plastic on to his bare skin and even trying to extract the nail of his big toe with an axe, causing permanent damage.

The next day two policemen took Makgale from his cell, cuffed his hands behind his back and made him sit on a chair in an office.   They pulled a glove with water over his head to cover his face and he could not breathe.   The police repeatedly asked him questions about a stolen bakkie.   Because he could not provide answers, Makgale was tortured further.   He was taken to a stretch of veld and assaulted before being taken back to his cell.   Makgale said the police fetched him again after a few hours and drove him to a parking lot where eight men were waiting for him, including the owner of the bakkie.   He was told to lie on the ground, while one of the policemen sat on his back.   He was again tortured with the glove and water – a procedure that was repeated several times.   The eight men – members of the public – kicked and assaulted him and told him they were going to kill him.   They placed a melting plastic bag over his bare back, neck and ear, before hitting him with a rifle and sjamboks.   Makgale said one of the men, using an axe, tried to remove his toenail, but failed.   He was taken back to his cell, where he was left for two days with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Torture routine, prisoners tell court

South African Press Association SAPA, Port Elizabeth, 23 May 2014

[accessed 14 September 2014]

According to court documents, routine mistreatment - which included electric shocks - started after a senior official, Babini Nqakula, was stabbed to death inside the prison.

Some of the 231 inmates bringing the case claim to have been forced by guards to strip naked and lie on the floor in a human chain, with their noses touching the anus of the inmate in front.  Ahmed Patel, one of four prisoners called to testify in court, said that he had to clean blood and faeces strewn all over the maximum security section after a round of beatings during a lockdown.   “The inmates were crying like pigs,” he said.   “The treatment was so inhuman. I saw warders' uniforms covered in blood, and they were drunk, hitting the s**t out of prisoners.”   Inmates claim they were mistreated in a “revenge” attack by prison officials, and complain that disciplinary charges against the guards involved were withdrawn.

Cops deny torture in muti murder case

South African Press Association SAPA, Mbombela, 27 February 2014

[accessed 26 March 2014]

Police officers investigating a muti murder involving a six-year-old Mpumalanga girl have denied torturing one of the accused into confessing to the crime.

The court heard Zulu was tortured with a plastic bag and suffocated during interrogations until she signed the confession.

“It is not true that I tubed her to make her confess. I know that she was taken to officer Mabunda for an interview. I was called as a female when she needed to go to the toilet so that I could escort her,” said Detective Constable Phumzile Shungube, from Tonga police station.

Defence lawyer Jacques Oosthuizen asked Shungube if she recorded her work in her pocket book on a daily basis as required.

She told the court that she sometimes ran out of pocket books or lost them.

Men accuse cops of torture

eNews Channel Africa eNCA, Pietermaritzburg, 16 February 2014

[accessed 17 February 2014]

"They took the gloves, it's a tube, it's a rubber glove so they put it on my face. They made sure they blocked my head and they blocked my nose and they started punching me, slapping me on my face," said Ngcobo.   "They were saying if I want to tell them where I was taking the cars to, I must tap on the floor with my foot."

Ngcobo says he was handcuffed to a chair and assaulted for five hours before being released.

His colleague Justice Ncobeni said he suffered a similar fate a few days earlier.

Radovan Krejcir tortured, electrocuted

eNews Channel Africa eNCA, Johannesburg, 23 November 2013

[accessed 24 Nov 2013]

Radovan Krejcir's lawyers say he has been tortured by police, electrocuted and suffered a severe beating.

According to Krejcir's lawyers, the Czech businessman was suffocated and tasered several times. Krejcir's lawyers said he was examined by two doctors who confirmed the injuries.

In the statement, Krejcir's lawyers alleged that he suffered cuts to his wrists and forearms and a chemical substance was then poured over the wounds which caused Krecjir severe pain."

South African police accused of routinely torturing crime suspects

Carolyn Raphaely in Johannesburg for the Wits Justice Project, The Guardian, 14 April 2013

[accessed 15 April 2013]

"They attached wires to my penis and back from something that looked like an old phone," he said. "Then they wound it up to get power to shock me. It was very, very painful. I even wet myself."

Dube said the officers covered his head with a plastic bag and sealed it with duct tape. "They only remove the plastic when you collapse, then they take it off. While they were suffocating me, they put pepper spray inside the plastic bag and sealed it. They kicked and punched me in the eye and ear. I still can't hear properly."

He says he was taken to the balcony and hung upside down over the edge, an officer holding each leg. That is when he agreed to co-operate with the investigation.

"I was terrified they'd drop me," Dube said. "They told me places to point out, how to make a confession and what to say. I did the pointing out the next day."

Under apartheid, the South African police were notorious for torturing and abusing political detainees, with many unexplained deaths in police cells. But similar brutality in the "new" South African police service has come to the forefront recently, after the massacre of striking mine workers at Marikana and the death in the township of Daveyton of Mido Macia, a Mozambican who was tied to the back of a police van and dragged along the road.

The Independent Complaints Directorate's 2011-12 report records 4,923 complaints received against the police and 720 deaths in police custody or as a result of police action.

"Torture hasn't suddenly reared its ugly head," said Professor Peter Jordi of the Wits Law Clinic at the University of Witwatersrand, who specialises in the subject of torture. "It's never stopped … It was carried out at police stations before and continues today. Previously, it was believed that mostly political detainees were tortured. If you're a criminal arrested for armed robbery today, you face exactly the same fate."

Torture claim: Cops must pay up

South African Press Association SAPA, Johannesburg, 19 March 2013

[accessed 20 March 2013]

Mofokeng testified that he was handcuffed and his legs were tied together while he was interrogated by two policemen.

Water was poured into a tube which was put on his face to suffocate him about four times.

While torturing him, one of the policemen insisted that he tell the truth.

The policemen also sat on his body while he was lying down and hit him with open hands so that he sustained an injury to his head.

He testified that he fabricated a story and admitted to receiving R20 000 for his role in the "robbery", because he was in excruciating pain and feared he would be killed.

Amateur video brings police torture to light

Faranaaz Parker, Mail & Guardian, 28 Feb 2013

[accessed 1 March 2013]

News that Daveyton police beat and dragged a man behind a police van has sickened South Africans. But police torture of civilians is nothing new.

Mido Macia, a taxi driver, got into an altercation with police after he was found to be obstructing traffic on a busy street. It's alleged that he was further beaten after he was taken to the local police station. He died in police custody as a result of his injuries.

In February the Mail & Guardian published an expose on the types of torture meted out to marginalized people. At the time, Poonitha Naidoo, co-ordinator for the Medical Rights Advocacy Network, said the most popular form of police torture in South Africa is called 'tubing' – a method of suffocation similar to the controversial waterboarding torture technique.

Widespread brutality

Gareth Newham, head of the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, told the M&G that police brutality is widespread in the South African Police Service.

"Police abuses, where police physically assault people are very widespread and are a daily occurrence particularly against vulnerable and marginal groups," he said.

"Police are very quick to physically assault people especially when they believe those people have little chance of reporting it and they can get away with it."

The state of the world's human rights

Amnesty International AI, Annual Report 2013

[accessed 9 Feb 2014]


In April, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act became operational, making the police liable to criminal charges for failure to co-operate with its investigations. The IPID informed parliament that it had received 720 new cases for investigation of suspicious deaths in custody or in other policing contexts from April 2011 to March 2012.

In May, after numerous delays and obstructions, 12 police officers from the former Bellville South Organized Crime Unit were charged in court with the abduction and murder of Sidwell Mkwambi in 2009 and the abduction and alleged torture of Siyabulela Njova, who had been arrested with him. Sidwell Mkwambi’s body showed multiple blunt force injuries to his head and body, which were inconsistent with the police account of how he died.


In October, Daluvuyo Bongo, a witness from the National Union of Mineworkers, was shot dead after assisting Commission officials; four witnesses assisting lawyers representing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and injured miners were allegedly hooded, assaulted and detained after leaving the Commission venue. The Legal Aid Board denied a request for funding to ensure representation for scores of miners injured by police on 16 August and others arrested and allegedly tortured in the aftermath of the shootings.

Policing and Human Rights -- Assessing southern African countries’ compliance with the SARPCCO Code of Conduct for Police Officials

Edited by Amanda Dissel & Cheryl Frank, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum APCOF, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-920489-81-6

[accessed 25 March 2014]


No police official shall, under any circumstances, inflict, instigate, or tolerate any act of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of any person.

A briefing to Parliament’s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee by then Acting ICD Executive Director Elias Valoyi and provincial directorate heads reportedly ‘told harrowing tales of the use of third-degree methods, particularly by the organised crime and national intervention units, which in at least one instance had led to death. Methods of torture included repeated beatings, electrocution and suffocation with plastic bags.  In May 2012, 12 members of the SAPS’s  Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court in connection with the murder in 2009 of 24-year-old Sidwell Mkwambi and the kidnapping, assault and torture of his friends, Siyabulela Njova and Mthuthuzeli Rantaoleng as well as other witnesses.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/ZAF/CO/1 (2006)

[accessed 6 March 2013]

19. The Committee is concerned about the wide discretionary powers available to the National Prosecuting Authority with regard to criminal justice (art. 12).

20. The Committee is concerned at the high number of deaths in detention and with the fact that this number has been rising.  The Committee is also concerned at the lack of investigation of alleged ill-treatment of detainees and with the apparent impunity of law enforcement personnel (art. 12).

21. Noting the existence of legal-aid mechanisms, the Committee is concerned about the difficulties vulnerable persons or groups experience in efforts to exercise their right to complain, including for linguistic reasons, to obtain redress and fair and adequate compensation as victims of acts of torture.  It is further concerned at the lack of awareness of the Convention’s provisions by vulnerable groups (arts. 13 and 10).

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 12 February 2013]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, some police officers beat, raped, tortured, and otherwise abused suspects. Police torture and abuse occurred during interrogation, arrest, detention, and searches of persons' homes.

The press reported that many refugee seekers claimed that immigration personnel whipped, beat, and subjected them to other brutal treatment. Despite promises by the Minister of Home Affairs to investigate such claims, no investigations had begun by year's end. No information was available on the case of four soldiers arrested in 2004 on allegations of ambushing, stripping, raping, and robbing illegal Zimbabwean immigrants.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 2   Civil Liberties: 2   Status: Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 12 February 2013]

Despite constitutional prohibitions and government countermeasures, there have been reports of police torture and excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and detention. Deaths in custody continue to be a problem. Prisons often do not meet international standards and feature overcrowding, inadequate health care, and abuse of inmates by staff or other prisoners. In 2006, a commission of inquiry found corruption, maladministration, and sexual violence to be rife in the penal system.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- South Africa",, [accessed <date>]



Torture in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [South Africa]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [South Africa]  [other countries]