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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                

Republic of South Africa

Despite constitutional prohibitions, police torture and excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and detention are commonly reported.

Overall, there was a 3 percent increase in total reported incidents over the previous fiscal year.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

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.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: South Africa

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 8 August 2021]


Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports of police use of torture and physical abuse during house searches, arrests, interrogations, and detentions, some of which resulted in death.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. The factors contributing to widespread police brutality were a lack of accountability and training.


Prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate medical care, disease (particularly tuberculosis), inmate-on-inmate rape, and physical abuse, including torture.

Media and NGOs continued to report instances in which prisoners were seriously abused. According to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Report 2019/2020, deaths in police custody (237 cases) increased by 11 percent from 2018/2019. There were 120 reported inmate rapes by police officers, 216 reports of torture, and reports of assault.


The law requires a review in cases of pretrial detention of more than two years’ duration. The pretrial detention frequently exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 18 May 2020]


According to a Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) 2017–18 annual report, the most recent report available as of this writing, there is severe overcrowding in some prisons—in part due to delays in holding trials. During this period, 82 unnatural deaths were reported in prisons, and there were 988 complaints of assault by prison officials on inmates.

Despite constitutional prohibitions, police torture and excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and detention are commonly reported. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) legally required to investigate allegations of police offenses or misconduct. In its annual report for the 2018–19 fiscal year, the IPID reported 607 deaths either in police custody or as a result of police action, 124 rapes by police officers, 270 incidents of torture, and 3,835 assaults. Overall, there was a 3 percent increase in total reported incidents over the previous fiscal year.

S Africa court issues orders to end police abuse during lockdown

Mia Swart, Aljazeera, 17 May 2020

[accessed 19 May 2020]

Human rights groups and experts have welcomed a series of orders issued by a South African court that compel authorities to prevent police and army brutality during the enforcement of a lockdown meant to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In her affidavit, his partner Nomsa Montsha claimed that the security forces poured beer on Khosa after dragging him outside, slammed him against a cement wall and hit him with the butt of a machinegun. Afterwards, Khosa began vomiting, was unable to walk and lost consciousness. He was declared dead a few hours later. Montsha and Khosa's brother-in-law said they were also assaulted.

South African police torture Nigerian to death

P.M. News, 19 January 2019

[accessed 8 May 2019]

The President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Mr Adetola Olubajo, told the News Agency of Nigeria on the telephone from Pretoria, South Africa, on Saturday that eye witnesses reported that Nwokeocha was allegedly tortured and beaten to death in his house.

Olubajo said that two witnesses, Nonso, a Nigerian and Palesa, a South African, were arrested by the same police officers that allegedly killed Nwokeocha.   “The witnesses, however, appeared in court on Jan. 17, but while the South African, Palesa was granted bail, Nonso, who is a Nigerian was denied bail.   “Autopsy has been done by one Dr Humphris and no sign of any substance was found in the deceased stomach.   “But there are bruises on his face, blood in his mouth and two bruises on his chest; a sign of lack of oxygen,” the President said.

Eight Gauteng cops arrested for torture, brutal murder of Nigerian man

IOL News, ANA reporter, Cape Town, 5 October 2018

[accessed 6 October 2018]

Eight police officers were arrested on Friday in connection with the October 2017 torture and murder of a Nigerian national in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, South Africa's police watchdog said.

In a statement, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said the six male and two female officers are accused of interrogating and suffocating 25-year-old Olamilekan Badmus last year.

A post-mortem, conducted by two pathologists, confirmed Badmus had been tortured, the statement said.

Three policemen arrested on torture‚ murder claims

Jeff Wicks, SowetanLIVE, 14 August 2018

[accessed 15 August 2018]

Three KwaZulu-Natal police officers have been accused of the torture and murder of a 47-year-old man‚ who had been detained for questioning.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesman Moses Dlamini said that detectives from the Muden police station‚ as well as operatives from the Greytown Crime Intelligence Unit had detained three men on August 2 for interrogation relating to a murder case.

“The three suspects were detained‚ tortured and assaulted inside Muden SAPS cells until one of the suspects succumbed to his injuries and died. Then the police orchestrated a plan to dispose of the deceased’s body‚ dumping it in nearby bushes‚” he said.

 Media Idolizes Winnie Mandela, Hides Murder and Torture of Kids

Alex Newman, New American, 4 April 2018

[accessed 15 Apr 2018]

Especially horrific was Richardson's description of the 1989 torture and murder he perpetrated against 14-year-old Stompie Sepei (shown). The young boy was an anti-government activist associated with Winnie and the communist-controlled African National Congress, at least until he came under suspicion of being a “spy” for police. Then, according to testimony by Richardson and others, Winnie ordered that he be abducted, brutally beaten, tortured, and eventually, executed like livestock.

 “I slaughtered him like a goat,” testified Richardson, who was also the “coach” of Winnie's “soccer team.” According to Richardson, described as one of Winnie's “closest confidantes,” Winnie personally participated in the barbaric torture of the young boy, which involved beatings, whippings, and other horrors. She reportedly sang joyfully as the boy writhed in horrifying pain. The actual killing, performed by slitting the boy's throat with pruning shears, took place in Noordgesig in Soweto, near a railway and Winnie's home.

R816k for police torture victim

Zelda Venter, Pretoria News Weekend, 16 May 2015

[accessed 19 May 2015]

Members of the SAPS arrived on the scene and Peters was placed in a police vehicle. They drove him around for hours, interrogating him about the man he had given a lift to.

The more Peters said he knew nothing about the man, the more he was assaulted. A Sergeant Naving Singh, according to evidence led in court, assaulted Peters in full view of the public. He also pointed a firearm at Peters’ private parts and Peters said he feared he would die.

The more he cried the more he was told to “stop crying like a bitch”.

He was taken to a remote railway line in Silverton, where a plastic bag was pulled over his head.

He was suffocated, kicked and punched.

His jaw was broken and when he was eventually taken to the police station, his parents had to beg the police to take him to a doctor. He only received pain medication and had to spend two nights in a police cell with a broken jaw.

When he was eventually taken to court, the prosecutor refused to prosecute him due to a lack of evidence.

His parents immediately took him to hospital, where he underwent an operation to his jaw. A plate and screws had to be inserted.

Mom wins damages after cop torture

Zelda Venter, Pretoria News, 16 April 2015

[accessed 13 August 14, 2015]

Dudu Sylvia Mhlanga, 44, suffered at the hands of the police as they wanted to extract information from her regarding residents who were apparently involved in arson.

Two female officers threatened she would never see her children again if she did not speak, she said.

Her hands and feet were cuffed and she was taken to a room where “a big man in a yellow overall was sitting”.

“He had a bag over his head and only his nose and mouth were visible. He said the room was a peace room and would end up a dirty room if I did not do as he said.

“He wanted me to implicate people in arson. When I refused, he placed a heavy bullet proof jacket over my body. He tied my hands at the waist. It was so tight I struggled to breathe and my ribs pained. A plastic bag was pulled over my face, suffocating me…”

Mhlanga said she bit the bag open to breathe. Police then threw fluid into her mouth, which she suspected was acid, as it burnt her. She urinated at this stage and signed the affidavit.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


POLICE CONDUCT - Serious concerns remain about the conduct and capacity of the South African Police Services (SAPS), both in terms of the use of force in general, as well as the ability to deal with riots in a rights-respecting manner. The police lack proper equipment and training to quell riots which often leads to the use of excessive and disproportionate force. In 2014, incidents of police violence were reported in Mothutlung in Brits, North West province, Relela in Kgapane, Limpopo province and Bekkersdal in Gauteng province. In January 2014, police killed three people during a protest over lack of water in Mothutlung.

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."

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).


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


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.


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]

[accessed 5 July 2019]

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]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

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>]