A man was left with “open wounds and bruises” all over his body after being assaulted with a golf stick and kicked in the genitals, allegedly by police officers, while another was hit with a wheel spanner and hung on a tree for allegedly killing a businessman.
These are just some of the latest incidents of police brutality in attempts to extract the truth from suspects which happened in Zeerust in North West and Boipatong township in Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng over the past three weeks.
At least five men were assaulted with various objects, punched and kicked allegedly by the men in blue who accused them of murder, theft and malicious damage to property, among other charges.
The annual report of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) for the 2018/2019 financial year shows there has been an upsurge in cases of police brutality.
Almost 2000 dockets involving police brutality have been sent to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Cases investigated by Ipid included 1794 of assault, 337 of discharging official firearms, 157 of death as a result of police action, 154 of death in police custody, 81 of torture, 60 of corrruption, 57 of criminal misconduct and 12 of rape while in police custody.
According to sources and a medical report obtained by the Sunday Independent, Pule Matlhageng was assaulted at Zeerust Police Station on January 21 allegedly by a Constable Ncube and a Constable Thebe. The two officers accused him of stealing their official firearm magazine, handcuffs and pepper spray from Ncube’s home.
In what has been described as a reign of terror, Ncube and Thebe allegedly also assaulted another awaiting trial prisoner, Onkgopoleng “Boikie” Molefe, in the police holding cells over the same allegations of police ammunition theft.
This comes as two other Gauteng men – Thabiso Mokele and Themba Phakathi – were assaulted allegedly by Vanderbijlpark police at Boipatong on accusations of burning a spaza shop and killing the owner on January 15.
“They stopped and beat and shoved me into the boot, and took me to the Vaal river. Before pulling me out of the boot, one of them hit me with a wheel spanner. They said they were going to kill me. They hung me from a tree and told me that I will have to tell them who killed a shop owner,” said Mokele.
Crime experts have blamed the poor quality of police training for the upsurge in cases of police brutality, saying some officers resorted to assaulting and torturing suspects to obtain evidence due to their failure to crack the cases.
Matlhaneng, a 24-year-old gardener, sustained open wounds to his head and other parts of his body after being whipped with a golf stick, punched and kicked in the genitals in the open veld and later in the police cells.
Speaking to Sunday Independent at his home in Zeerust, Matlhageng said he was at a shopping centre in the CDB when Ncube and Thebe suddenly grabbed him and led him to a police car parked nearby. The officers then handcuffed him and threw him into the back of the car, he said.
“On our way to the station, they took a detour and drove towards Bonanza where they stopped the car and started hitting me with the golf stick in the head. They tried to force me into confessing that I stole their firearm magazine, pepper spray and handcuffs. Mr Ncube tried to force me to admit to the crime; when I said I knew nothing about it; they hit me with a golf stick.
“When they were done, they threw me into the car again and drove to the station. When we arrived, they assaulted me and said another guy, Boikie, had been arrested and was inside the cells.
“They said I must produce those things because they had no intention to open criminal charges. I know nothing about it. What they do is that they arrest any random person they meet in the streets and suspect of having stolen their equipment.”
Matlhageng said Ncube and Thebe drove him home after being discharged from Zeerust Hospital without opening a charge against him. According to his medical report, dated January 22, 2020, Matlhageng was “beaten at police station yesterday with a golf stick”, had “bruises all over the body” and suffered “pains in the face, arms and the legs”.
Colonel Adéle Myburgh, acting North West provincial police spokesperson, confirmed a break-in at Ncube’s home but would not say who the suspects were.
She would also not respond to direct questions regarding assault allegations against Ncube and Thebe.
“I can confirm a case was opened for housebreaking and theft at Zeerust SAPS on 15 January 2020 after a laptop was stolen from the house, where Constable Ncube is renting a room with other tenants. The laptop was the property of one of the tenants, who is the complainant in the case.
“No uniform/other police equipment was reported as stolen. Investigations are still continuing and no arrests have been made in connection with this housebreaking case.
“No case was registered for the alleged assault. If any member of the public experiences any problems concerning service delivery at any police station, the station commander can be contacted directly,” Myburgh said.
Ncube denied assaulting Matlhageng and Molefe.
“I have never assaulted anyone. I don’t know what you are talking about. There is no case of assault opened against me. We work according to protocol. I can’t talk to the media.”
Thebe could not be reached for comment.
Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said police brutality said a lot about the training of officers and their understanding of human rights.
“Police brutality is a question of the poor quality of some of our officers, in particular our detectives. Good detectives will never feel the need to assault or torture a suspect to get the truth.”
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Source: Sunday Independent