Annual Report: South Africa 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: South Africa 2013

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Republic of South Africa

Head of state and government Jacob G. Zuma

Police use of excessive force against protesters, suspected extrajudicial executions and torture triggered national concern and some steps were taken towards accountability. Discrimination and targeted violence against asylum-seekers and refugees and barriers to accessing the asylum system increased. Progress was slow in addressing systematic hate-motivated violence based on victims' sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite continued expansion in access to treatment and care for people living with HIV, HIV-related infections remained the main cause of maternal deaths. Human rights defenders remained at risk of harassment and violence.


President Zuma was re-elected as President of the African National Congress (ANC) in December. The leadership elections followed months of tension and incidents of violence between contending factions within the party. Apparent political interference, rivalries and corruption led to increased instability at senior levels within the police and crime intelligence, impacting on the integrity and efficiency of services.

Significant court rulings upheld human rights and protected the independence of the prosecution service.

There were widespread strikes in the mining and farming sectors and protests in poor urban communities over local government corruption, failures in education and other services and working conditions. In October, the government released national census data, which revealed continuing significant racial disparities in household incomes and rates of employment.

South Africa ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions

In April, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act became operational, making the police liable to criminal charges for failure to co-operate with its investigations. The IPID informed parliament that it had received 720 new cases for investigation of suspicious deaths in custody or in other policing contexts from April 2011 to March 2012.

  • Also in April, a Burundian asylum-seeker, Fistos Ndayishimiye, died while being interrogated by police at his home in KwaZulu-Natal province. Witnesses prevented by police from entering the house reported hearing him screaming for some time. He suffered multiple blunt force injuries to the head and body and severe internal injuries. An investigation was initiated by IPID but had not concluded by year's end.
  • In May, after numerous delays and obstructions, 12 police officers from the former Bellville South Organized Crime Unit were charged in court with the abduction and murder of Sidwell Mkwambi in 2009 and the abduction and alleged torture of Siyabulela Njova, who had been arrested with him. Sidwell Mkwambi's body showed multiple blunt force injuries to his head and body, which were inconsistent with the police account of how he died.
  • In June, members of the Cato Manor Organized Crime Unit appeared in Durban magistrate's court, facing a range of charges. After further arrests and court appearances, a total of 30 officers were facing trial at year's end on 116 counts, including racketeering, murder, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. The offences covered a four-year period from 2008. All of the accused were released on bail pending trial. Families of victims expressed continued fear for their own safety. The arrests resulted from new investigations by the IPID and the police “Hawks” unit.

Excessive use of force

On 16 August, the policing authorities deployed units armed with assault rifles and live ammunition to crush a mine workers' strike at the LONMIN Marikana platinum mine in North West Province. Sixteen miners died at the scene and 14 others at another location where they had fled to escape police fire. There were indications that the majority had been shot while attempting to flee or surrender. Four other miners died later that day from their injuries. The striking miners had been involved in a wage dispute with LONMIN. The scale and visibility of the killings, as well as the growing unrest across the mining sector, caused a national crisis.