Reports of police brutality are 'isolated incidents'
Police National Commissioner Bheki Cele’s office insisted on Thursday that recent reports of police brutality were isolated incidents.
“It will be important for us to treat those as isolated incidents instead of bringing them into one issue and cloud the matter around the issue of police brutality,” his spokesperson, Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha, told South African Broadcasting Corporation radio news.
“We cannot obviously deny the fact that in some instances our members act beyond what is expected, which is why ... the ICD [Independent Complaints Directorate] will take the process forward.
“In all these examples there are investigations under way,” she added.
She was responding to several reports of police assaulting or killing unarmed civilians.
‘There’s no point in calling the ambulance’
The most recent was this week’s shooting dead of Jeanette Odendaal (45) outside the Kempton Park police station, east of Johannesburg.
A car guard who said he witnessed the shooting by a sergeant told the Star in a report published on Thursday that the policeman refused to call an ambulance.
Sipho Baloyi, who had helped Odendaal to park her car when she crashed into a stationary police vehicle, said the sergeant shot her from short distance after Baloyi alerted the police to the accident in the parking lot.
“A sergeant came around from the charge office and walked out of the station. He didn’t say anything, but walked to her passenger window. He shot her upper arm and it looked like the bullet went through her breast and out of her chest,” said Baloyi.
The police officer then walked back into the police station, but returned a few seconds later.
He said he pleaded with the sergeant to call emergency services.
But, said Baloyi, the sergeant told him: “She’s dying already, there’s no point in calling the ambulance.”
He said other police officers flooded the scene after the shooting and demanded to know from the sergeant why he had shot her. The sergeant then allegedly burst into tears.
Beeld reported that Odendaal, who lived in Aston Manor, a few kilometres from the police station, had wanted to report a case of disturbance of the peace.
The Star said her family would travel from Middelburg in Mpumalanga on Thursday to identify her body.
The ICD said on Wednesday that the sergeant had been arrested and would appear in court soon.
It was believed that he mistook the noise of the crash for gun shots.
On Tuesday, eight policemen appeared in court in the Free State after allegedly killing unarmed civilian Andries Tatane, who was beaten and shot during a protest in Ficksburg on April 13.
Cele on Tuesday said the country’s 8 500 crowd control police officers would get a refresher course in handling protests.
A video of Tatane’s death was broadcast on national television.
ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini earlier said two similar police brutality cases had been before two KwaZulu-Natal courts on Tuesday.
One was in Greytown, where five policemen allegedly strangled a person in custody, while the other case, in Hammersdale, involved 15 policemen who alleged beat a suspect who later died.
Western Cape media also reported this week that an unarmed Cape Town club owner had been beaten up by several police officers while he was in handcuffs.—Sapa