Hundreds of rogue police officers in the Eastern Cape could face serious criminal charges such as murder, rape and assault.
This is according to an internal police report by watchdog division the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), which delivered a 156-page report to parliament last Wednesday recommending that the SAPS and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) take action against more than 500 Eastern Cape cops.
In their report, Ipid recommends that the SAPS take internal action in 264 cases involving Eastern Cape police officers. They also sent a further 262 cases to the NPA for formal prosecution.
But according to the Ipid report, the NPA only decided to prosecute one of the 262 Eastern Cape cases, and declined to prosecute seven, with a backlog of 254 cases unattended to. Ipid head Sesoko Matthews said the NPA had yet to respond to the outstanding 254 cases, although they had been sent to it during the 2016-17 financial year ending in April.
In the docket bundles sent to the NPA are 11 cases of death as a result of police action, two accusations of rape, 180 of assault, 47 of discharging an official firearm, 11 charges of non-compliance with the Ipid Act, two of corruption and nine of various other criminal offences.
In the 264 cases sent to the SAPS, the report states that Ipid was awaiting a response from the SAPS on 124 cases while disciplinary action had been launched in only 34 cases. In 10 cases, officers were cleared of wrongdoing, five were found guilty, while no steps were taken in two cases.
Matthews said some of the cases were dealt with internally through written, verbal or final warnings, dismissals, fines, corrective counselling, or suspensions without salary.
Tension between the NPA’s Shaun Abrahams and Ipid’s Robert McBride were evident in a letter sent to Abrahams by McBride, seen by the Daily Dispatch and dated August 11.
McBride accuses the NPA of blocking Ipid investigations against SAPS members and complains about perceived double standards by some members of NPA in dealing with Ipid cases, compared to how they dealt with SAPS’ dockets where the public are the accused.
“This raises concerns about the consistency of the NPA in dealing with Ipid investigations and SAPS investigations, particularly those SAPS investigations conducted by the Mbalula team, which in our view are meant to counter Ipid investigations.”
Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies at Wits University, said the NPA was not lawfully obliged to make speedy prosecutions to meet the performance targets of Ipid.
Burger said the NPA’s internal woes may be the cause of their underperformance.
“They are facing a lot of problems which include being left by senior prosecutors like Gerrie Nel [now with Afriforum], Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi [who were struck off the roll of advocates]”. He said while it was harsh to accuse the NPA of blocking prosecutions, it had to inform the nation of its problems.
The highest number of cases relate to police assault with a total of 3827 cases countrywide.
Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga’s spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said the relevant department could not be reached for a response to the report.
Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini said of the delays: “ Victims of police criminality do not get justice for what was done to them and this also demotivates our investigators.”
Nationally, Ipid is waiting for the NPA to deal with 1140 outstanding cases against the police.
NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said they would only be able to comment today after engaging with regional spokesmen Tshepo Ndwalaza and Luxulo Tyali.
Justice spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga could not be reached for comment. — firstname.lastname@example.org