Annual Report: South Africa 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: South Africa 2013

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The National Commissioner of Police stated at a press conference on 17 August that the police actions were justified on the grounds of self-defence. Nevertheless, President Zuma ordered a judicial commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths and those of 10 other people in the preceding week, including two LONMIN security guards and two police officers.

The start of the Commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, was delayed by the late issuing of regulations and critical problems affecting the Commission's integrity and accessibility; these included difficulties in securing support for the participation of the families of those killed and funding for legal representation to ensure witnesses were supported and measures taken for their protection. In October, Daluvuyo Bongo, a witness from the National Union of Mineworkers, was shot dead after assisting Commission officials; four witnesses assisting lawyers representing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and injured miners were allegedly hooded, assaulted and detained after leaving the Commission venue. The Legal Aid Board denied a request for funding to ensure representation for scores of miners injured by police on 16 August and others arrested and allegedly tortured in the aftermath of the shootings.

Before the Commission's closure in December, and its resumption in January, it began to hear evidence on the police actions on and prior to 16 August. Police evidence did not clarify why officers had advanced the operation to disarm and disperse the miners to a stage which relied on police units armed only with lethal force. In addition, a police witness tasked with investigating the scene of the 16 August shootings told the Commission that the scene had been altered; making it impossible for him and other investigators to link any of the deceased miners with weapons they were allegedly carrying before being shot.

  • In October, the South African Human Rights Commission issued a report criticizing the police for using excessive force, which led to the death of Andries Tatane during a community protest in Ficksburg in April 2011. He had been beaten with batons and shot with rubber bullets at close range despite posing no threat to the police or members of the public. In December, the trial of seven police officers charged with Andries Tatane's murder was postponed until March 2013.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In November, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development adopted amendments to the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill for full parliamentary debate in 2013. This followed public hearings on the Bill in September. Legal, human rights and other civil society organizations, as well as Amnesty International, gave evidence and made recommendations to strengthen the draft legislation. While some were accepted, the provisions for reparations for victims of torture fell short of international standards.

In May, the High Court set aside as unlawful the decision by the authorities not to investigate allegations of torture by named perpetrators in Zimbabwe. The Southern African Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum brought the application in relation to South Africa's obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The High Court ordered the authorities to undertake the necessary investigations.

In July, the Constitutional Court rejected the government's appeal against an earlier High Court judgement, which had declared unlawful its attempts to transfer two Botswanan nationals to Botswana without prior assurances that the death penalty would not be applied. Amnesty International intervened as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in the Constitutional Court hearing.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Far-reaching changes to the asylum system continued, with an increasing impact on non-discriminatory access to asylum determination procedures. Documents submitted by the government during court hearings indicated an intention to relocate services to the borders.