Friday, October 23, 2009

How violent are the South African police?

Wessel van Rensburg made a comparison between the number of deaths in police custody before and after Apartheid ended, which ties in with the recent discussions of the comparison between the apartheid and ANC governments.

Related posts:
In 1976 the South African police killed 653 people.

According to
research by David Bruce of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the 2008/2009 figure for deaths in police custody is not far behind that of 1976.

In the last year 556 suspects, including 32 innocent bystanders, were shot and killed.

In 1976 violence erupted in Soweto when the then minister of education, Andries Treurnicht sought to compel black students to take certain subjects in Afrikaans. The riots spread nationally. The government deployed riot police and the army far and wide.
Some put the number of deaths during the riots at 332 in Soweto, and more than 435 nationally. Only a few years in apartheid history were more violent. 1984 and 1985 being two of them.

This means that another 220 people were killed in 1976 by the police, besides in the riots, and presumably at least some of these deaths were as a result of politics.

In other words a maximum of 220 people were killed that were considered ordinary ’suspects’.

The police are killing an awful number of people for a country at peace.

HOWEVER –
Deaths during ‘police contact’ in the UK routinely hover around 100. A lot less than SA yes, but look again.

The UK overall homicide rate is around 1000 a year. Police ‘deaths’ therefore represent nearly 10% of the total. In South Africa police ‘killings’ have a ratio of 550 to 17,000. Ie, just over 3%.

And in Rio alone,
deaths from police contact rise to 1000 per year.

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