Annual Report: South Africa 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: South Africa 2010

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Head of state and government Jacob G. Zuma (replaced Kgalema Motlanthe in May)
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 50.1 million
Life expectancy 51.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 79/64 per 1,000
Adult literacy 88 per cent

Increased incidents of torture and extrajudicial executions by police were reported. Refugees and migrants continued to suffer discrimination and displacement in large-scale incidents of violence. Advocates of housing rights were threatened and attacked with impunity. High levels of violence against women and girls were reported, along with failures by the authorities to provide adequate support to survivors of such abuse. An estimated 5.7 million people were living with HIV, with women continuing to be disproportionately affected.

Background

Elections in April resulted in a new government under the African National Congress (ANC) President, Jacob Zuma. The ANC secured 65.9 per cent of the vote and control over eight of the nine provinces. An Independent Electoral Commission official in KwaZulu-Natal province was prosecuted for forgery and violating the electoral code, the first such case since 1994.

Persistent poverty, rising levels of unemployment and violent crime, together with the crisis in the public health sector, posed significant challenges for the new government. Political tensions emerged within the ANC, the trade union congress and Communist Party alliance over economic policy, with frequent trade union-led workers' strikes. Corruption and nepotism impeded community access to housing and services, and led to the collapse of some municipal governments and to widespread protests among affected communities. The volatile situation contributed to increased incidents of violence against foreign nationals, who were perceived as competing for scarce economic resources.

Political developments continued to affect the independence and integrity of the administration of justice. In April, the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mokotedi Mpshe, withdrew corruption charges against Jacob Zuma on grounds of improper interference in the case.

In August, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), without a formal hearing, ruled that the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, John Hlophe, was not guilty of gross misconduct after an apparent attempt to influence two judges preparing a judgement affecting the case against Jacob Zuma. A minority of JSC members disagreed with the ruling.

In November, President Zuma appointed Menzi Simelane as NDPP. He had previously been under disciplinary investigation by the Public Service Commission (PSC) after the Ginwala commission of inquiry found his testimony untruthful and without basis in law. The PSC findings had not been made public by the end of the year.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Incidents of torture and other ill-treatment by police of detained crime suspects were reported. Corroborated cases included the use of suffocation and electric shock torture. Incidents of torture rose, according to the police oversight body, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). From April 2008 to March 2009 they investigated 828 incidents of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, some of which amounted to torture. Suspects in several cases were interrogated and assaulted while held without any record of their arrest. Despite continuing efforts by the South African Human Rights Commission and civil society organizations, South Africa did not ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.