10 Things to know about the Police Brutality Legal Clinic


  1. The Police Brutality Legal Clinic is run by ProBono.Org, an NGO which works with private legal practitioners to provide pro-bono legal services to those who can’t afford to pay for these resources themselves.
  2. Global law firm Hogan Lovells partnered with ProBono.Org to start the Police Brutality Legal Clinic in 2011.
  3. The clinic offers free consultation services with attorneys who evaluate the merits (evidence) of a case and provide preliminary advice on issues such as prescription, compliance and jurisdiction and then decide if a case is worth pursuing.
  4. The clinic operates on the first and third Tuesday of every month from the Probono.Org offices, by appointment only. Find address and contact details here.
  5. The clinic handles cases of police brutality, unlawful arrest and unlawful detention by the South Africa Police Services (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).
  6. The clinic has seen more than 240 clients since 2011.
  7. In recent years, the clinic’s case load has increased significantly. According to Candice Pillay, head of Hogan Lovells pro bono department, this is because the public is becoming aware of their rights in relation to what police officers can and cannot do.
  8. The clinic also provides advocates to clients on a pro bono basis, once litigation commences.
  9. Civil cases against SAPS and JMPD are brought against the Minister of Police or the City of Johannesburg, not against individual officers.
  10. The clinic is currently litigating 20 cases – including pending High Court cases relating to unlawful detention.

For appointments please contact Pro-Bono.Org on 011 339-6080.

Ten facts about SA’s watch-dog – Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).


  1. The IPID Act was signed into law on 12 May 2011. IPID is an independent organisation that reports to the Minister of Police and functions independently of the SA Police Service (SAPS)
  2. The Act empowers IPID to investigate serious criminal offences by SAPS and Municipal Police Service (MPS) members – including all deaths in police custody or as a result of police action, criminal offences and acts of serious misconduct allegedly committed by SAPS and MPS members.
  3. The Directorate is obliged to investigate matters such as complaints relating to the discharge of an official firearm by a police officer; rape by a police officer, whether the police officer is on or off duty; rape of any person in police custody and any complaint of torture or assault against a police officer in the execution of his, or her, duties. It is also mandated to investigate police–related corruption.
  4. IPID was established on 1 April 2012, in terms of Section 206(6) of the Constitution of the Republic of SA which provided for the establishment of an independent police complaints body. IPID replaced the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and is empowered to focus on serious criminal investigations as opposed to mostly service –related matters investigated by its predecessor.
  5. IPID’s mission is to be “an effective independent and impartial investigating and over-sight body that is committed to justice and acting in the public interest while meeting the highest standards of integrity and excellence.”
  6. For the entire 2013/2014 reporting period, the IPID had no permanent head and nine provincial head posts were vacant. As a result, there were inconsistencies in performance, with some provinces meeting their performance target and others failing to do so.
  7. IPID received 5 745 complaints during the 2013/2014 reporting period. Of these, 3 916 were assault cases, 429 were complaints relating to the discharge of official firearms, 390 were incidents of deaths resulting from  police action, 374 related to other criminal matters and 234 were incidents of deaths in police custody.
  8. SAPS adopted an anti-torture policy in 2009 and in 2011 IPID was given an express mandate to investigate all allegations of torture by the police, according to the Association for the Prevention of Torture.

Most brutal police stations

9. The Prevention and Combating of Torture Bill was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in July 2013.According to IPID 2013/2014 annual report, to date no police officer has been prosecuted for torture by the National Prosecuting Authority.

10. More than 17 000 cases of deaths, rapes, assaults and torture were reported to IPID between 2004 and 2014 countrywide – an average of 1 770 a year, or close to five incidents a day. According to City Press’ Athandiwe Saba (Brutality… just another day on the job) records dating back to 2004 were incomplete and case numbers, incident dates, names of police stations and complainants’ details often unrecorded.

Death in custody

Want to learn more about police brutality and misconduct?

The full IPID 2012/2013 report can be read here

The full IPID 2013/2014 report can be read here

An insightful piece on unlawful arrests and police misconduct, written by WJP senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins, can be read here

Also read South African police accused of routinely torturing crime suspects by WJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely.

Listen to Wits Justice Show radio podcasts on Police Brutality and What can the police do to you during an arrest?



Cops in the headlines

Stun grenades fired at protesting Cape Town students

IMG_7091 edit

Pupils from Philippi High School running from stun grenades that police used to disperse protesting students. Photo by Daneel Knoetze from Ground Up

On March 6, a protest by students in the Western Cape over the lack of infrastructure and classrooms at their school was violently dispersed by police with stun grenades.

According to Ground Up the police officers asked pupils to disperse but the students said all they wanted was to be heard. Police then threw stun grenades at the students, some of whom were sitting on the pavement.

According to GroundUp:

Among them was the limping figure of Bunzi Akhona, a schoolgirl whose tracksuit bottoms has been ripped open by the force of a stun grenade explosion. She told Ground Up that she was seated in the front line, and that the first grenade landed in her lap.

To read full article please follow this link:

Police use stun grenades; injure and disperse marching Philippi students, Ground UP, 6 March 2015

To watch the video of the protest follow this link:

WATCH: Stun grenades fired at protesting Cape Town learners, News24, 6 March 2015


Mpumalanga cop in hot water after ‘accidentally’ punching his new boss

Police constable is in ‘hot water’ after allegedly getting into a fist fight with the newly appointed Mpumalanga police commissioner, according to a Times Live article on 10 March 2015.

The newly appointed police commissioner for Mpumalanga province, Lt-Gen Mark Magadlela, was conducting a surprise visit to police stations in order to tackle corruption and deal with discipline in the police force.

Seeing a child sitting in a police van (against regulations), he approached the vehicle and saw that the driver was not there. He took the keys, just as the officer was returning to the car. Not realizing that the man taking the keys was his new boss, the officer tussled with the “thief” and fisticuffs were exchanged. On returning to the station to report the matter, the officer found that the “thief” was, in fact, the new commissioner.

An internal investigation has been launched.

To read full article follow this link:

Mpumalanga cop in hot water after ‘accidentally’ punching his new boss, Times Live, 10 March 2015


Police brutality claim goes viral on social media

The daughter of South Africa’s ambassador to Tunisia, Thandiswa Losi, was locked up for trying to video the police officers in Sunnyside assaulting a girl.

According to The Citizen, Losi claimed she was arrested when she was filming the assault of another girl.  She says that police officers noticed her filming, took her phone, slapped her and dragged her to a police van. Losi also accuses the police officers of verbally abusing her in the holding cells after Losi refused to unlock her phone so they could see what was recorded.

Losi took to Twitter and tweeted that she “witnessed police horrifically drag a girl by the neck, assaulting her”. She tweeted again saying: “I tried to record this, a police officer took my phone, hit me and arrested me”.

To read full article follow this link:

Police brutality claim goes viral on social media, The Citizen, 8 Mar 2015

Related articles:

Police allegedly assault ambassador’s daughter, The Citizen, 9 Mar 2015

Police brutality ‘victim’ distrusts the SAPS, The Citizen, 9 Mar 2015




Notes from Gareth Newham’s presentation: Exploring Police Abuses and Performance in South Africa



The Wits Justice Project are currently attending the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) 4th International Conference: National and International Perspectives on Crime Reduction and Criminal Justice. This morning’s session looked at policing challenges in South Africa, with Mr Gareth Newham, Head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the ISS talking on the topic of ‘Exploring police abuses and performances in South Africa’. His presentation made use of empirical data which, as the presentation abstract notes, suggests that “the performance of the SAPS in relation to crime combatting has started to deteriorate while concerns with police brutality and corruption have increased.”

Newham noted that there has been a distinct emphasis in recent years on increasing ‘visible policing’. As a result, there has been a 222% increase in the police budget from 2003/2004 to 2013. He noted that this marked increase is far above the yearly inflation rate and is rare world-wide. Newham explained that this concept was a hallmark of the Jackie Selebi era in which it was believed that more police would equal less crime. As a result, the police force has increased in numbers and there are now approximately 160 000 men and women in uniform across South Africa. However, Newham noted that police activities have in no way represented the budgetary increases. He presented a graph which showed that there have been spikes in policing around international events, such as the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Between 2002 and 2012 there was a marked increase in persons and vehicles searched. In fact, over 20 million people were searched last year alone. But, in a study conducted in inner city Johannesburg in 2009, it was revealed that one third of searches involved policemen looking for bribes.

“There is a danger in mass arrests”, said Newham. He noted that since 2008 arrests have increased substantially by 26% while overall crime rates have stabilized. In citing Sherman et al (1997), he warned that while an increase in arrests for petty crimes may decrease crime rates in the short term, it could increase crime long term. “The less respectful police are towards suspects and citizens generally, the less people will comply with the law”, warned Newham. He added, “it’s not what police do, it’s how they do it…style is as important as substance.” He noted the current model sees the police combating crime rather than focusing on preventing it.

Newham concluded in calling for enhanced police integrity. He shared an alarming statistic that only 1% of total cases opened at the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) end in conviction. This means there is a 99% chance police officers under investigation will not be convicted – therefore there is not much of a deterrent. Newham added that between 2001 and 2011 police brutality cases reported to IPID increased by 313%, resulting in an average of 5 cases reported per day. In the 2011/2012 period, SAPS charged 1050 of their own members for corruption related offences.

He noted that there is a problem of police impunity. He revealed that the SAPS performance plan for 2012/2103 does not deal with issues such as brutality, training and poor public perceptions. He praised the National Development Plan and suggested the police take heed of the recommendations therein. Notably, recommendations relating to a need to “professionalize the SAPS”, to recruit seniors transparently and on merit and, importantly, to reward those in SAPS who are doing their jobs particularly well.

Tying well into this theme, Project Coordinator of the Wits Justice Project, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, wrote an op-ed piece earlier this year entitled ‘Don’t sacrifice human rights to fight crime’. The article first appeared in the Saturday Star and can be read here

The ISS 4th conference continues tomorrow, 22 August. Search for #issconf4 on Twitter to view live tweets and take a look at the ISS website for more information. Slides used in the presentations will be made available on the website over the course of the next few days.

Police beat me with baseball bat, says Joburg man


Bruises on the body of Gerald Carey, who says he was attacked by two Kempton Park policemen last week. (Photo: EyeWitnessNews)

Kempton Park man alleges brutal beating by police

A 32-year-old Kempton Park man says a vicious attack by two officers from Chloorkop Police Station has left him with a bruised body and stitches in his head. According to The Star, Gerald Carey says the officers stopped him while he was driving home at about 10pm on the 9th of May. Carey says one of the officers became aggressive when Carey rejected his demand for a bribe. Carey alleges he was later thrown into a police vehicle and driven to an isolated place where he was attacked with a baseball bat. Read more.

Westville inmate could be released after daughter admits lying about rape

Cedrick Shezi, who was sentenced to two life terms in 2005, could be released after his daughter admitted that she falsely accused him of raping her when she was 8 years old. Now 18, the girl says her mother forced her to lie about the rape so that she (mother) could get rid of Shezi and continue her relationship with another man. According to the Sowetan, Shezi has always maintained his innocence and has been granted leave to appeal his sentence and conviction by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

East Rand police boss accused of bullying staff and nepotism

Sources at the Germiston headquarters of the East Rand Flying Squad have accused their commander of vicitimising staff and abusing the system. The Star reports that Lieutenant-Colonel Mbongeni Aubrey Khumalo allegedly mistreated colleagues, used official vehicles for personal use, and frequently took unauthorised leave. The sources told the paper that Khumalo acts with impunity because he is protected by the top brass of the Gauteng police. Read more.

Corrupt North West officer caught red-handed

The New Age reports that a police officer was recently arrested for corruption. SAPS spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said the officer allegedly accepted money to withdraw traffic tickets and cancel arrest warrants. The man was arrested outside the Klerksdorp Magistrate’s Court after being trapped by an undercover police officer.

Victim of Hillbrow police brutality seeks damages

Daveyton residents protest against police brutality earlier this year. (Photo: Muntu Vilakazi for City Press)

Daveyton residents protest against police brutality earlier this year. (Photo: Muntu Vilakazi for City Press)

Joseph Mahlangu, who was brutally assaulted by three officers in a cell at Hillbrow Police Station in 2007, won his civil claim against the police in November 2012 and is now seeking damages for general suffering and psychological trauma.

The New Age reports that Mahlangu was pepper-sprayed, punched and kicked until he became unconscious. When he regained consciousness, his stomach had swelled due to internal bleeding and he was vomiting blood. The officers demanded money before they would allow Mahlangu access to medical treatment.

 An internal police  investigation found two of the officers guilty of assault. They paid a fine and remain on duty. Read more.

MP falls victim to police brutality

JMPD officers are said to have collided with and hurled insults at an MP. (Photo: The Post)

JMPD officers are said to have collided with and hurled insults at an MP. (Photo: The Post)

The chair of the portfolio committee on arts and culture, Thandile Babalwa Sunduza, says is traumatized after the Joburg metro police allegedly smashed into her car and insulted her. The New Age reports that the incident took place in Sandton on Friday. Sunduza says people have warned her not to lay charges against the police as they might victimize her. However, she has reportedly laid charges of intimidation and malicious damage, in order to make the officers accountable. Read more.

Related Wits Justice Project article:

“Apartheid tactics stand the test of time” by Carolyn Raphaely



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