SA Police: to serve and protect … to torture and kill – “Revolt” magazine, 1992


Revolt number 2 (1992), South Africa

The South African police continue to assault, torture and kill people in custody. The brutal death of Simon Mthimkulu in July [1992] in one example amongst many.

In the final hours of his life, 19 year old Simon set out on an errand with his friends Joubert Radebe and Sikhalo ‘Lucky Boy” Maseko. It was a sunny afternoon in Sebokeng township that fatal Tuesday, July 14.

The three friends were on their way to fetch some money owed to Radebe’s father when, as they were crossing an open space, a stolen white Mazda came up against a barricade of rocks blocking the road. The driver, unable to manoeuvre the vehicle around the rocks, abandoned it and disappeared.

Police, from a casspir stationed across the road seized the three, and set off on the Golden Highway (from Johannesburg to Vanderbijlpark) . On the way, the casspir pulled over and the three boys ware taken out and beaten.

The police then threw them back into the police vehicle and drove to the local police station, all the while beating them with truncheons. At the station, the policemen took the three youths to a room in the back of the station, and other policemen entered the room. The floor was covered in blood.

Lucky Boy and Simon were taken into the toilet by five policemen. They were kicked and beaten. Then the police told them to do squats and pushups. But Simon could not as he was asthmatic. He asked for water but the policemen refused it. He was then kicked in the ribs.

Lucky Boy was then told to close his eyes and cover his face. Through his fingers he saw the policemen throw a huge rock an Simon’s ribs… they did this three times. At this stage another policemen entered the room and started beating Lucky Boy after which he ordered him home. Lucky Boy tried to pick up Simon – who was lying on his back and dripping blood from his nose but still breathing – but the police beat Lucky Boy on the head with a sjambok. He started running and they pelted him with stones.

Simon’s mother was meanwhile frantic with worry. When she saw how his friends had been beaten she went to the police station and the hospital. Eventually she located him in a mortuary. His body had been found in the veld some 12 hours after his “arrest”.

This brutal killing was what drove internationally renowned pathologist Dr. Jonathan Gluckman – who examined the body of state murdered black consciousness leader Steven Bantu Biko – to go public with the more than 200 files of people killed in police custody. He said of Simon Mthimkulu: “This is a 19 year old boy. Not charged with an offence. Tortured, ill treated and killed. He could have been a son of mine.”

Other cases of police brutality

* Columbus Maqoba was arrested at home by Vanderbjilpark police on July 23 1992 in perfect health. Family members were told later that day, by Sebokeng police that he had been killed by Vanderbijlpark police. They identified his body at the Sebokeng police station where it had been brought In the back of a police vehicle. Death was by suffocation.

* Armstrong Yesake died on August 22 1991 of a massive brain haemorrhage. He was found hanging in a call at Modderbee Prison.

* David Makgalaka, 21, died in November 1 1991 from a gunshot wound through the skull and the chest. Witnesses saw him being beaten at Louis Trichardt police station.

* Duke Serre of Rockville died on January 15 this year in what Gluckman called a “savage attack.” Witnesses saw him and his brother assaulted at the Moroka police station.

* Joseph Kaotz, 58, was arrested on a criminal charge in Hertzogville near Bloemfontein on January 17 1992. He died the next day in police custody.

The police have admitted at least 68 deaths in custody this year !!! How many more will the SAP – our so called guardians of “law and order” – beat, torture and murder? How many wore deaths? So much about the State protecting us from crime. Clearly the state is more dangerous and violent than we could ever be. There is no way people can trust the state’s lies about its beneficial role. Everyday it gets clearer and clearer that the police is nothing more than a brutal means of keeping “our” rulers in power.

Is anybody safe while our country is run by violent groups like the NP [National Party], SADF [SA Defence Force] and SAP [South African Police]? NO, we are not. The killers have got to go NOW.

EDITORS’ NOTE: The above is just the tip of the iceberg… the police along with the defence force have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. The police in this country, and everywhere else in the world have only one role to play in society, and that is not to maintain law and order and curb crime, but to keep the parasitic ruling elite in power and to protect THEIR assets. The working class are just seen as disposable assets, small cogs in the machinery that are expendable … the police are the lubrication that keep this bastard oppressive machine operating. They represent the ruling class and nothing more.

Over the last year or so the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army [APLA] have been killing policemen and the press, etc. have been quick to condemn. The only tears I’ll shed is when I find out that only 10 cops got killed instead of 20. Remember this and remember it well … no matter who the police work for, be it a Socialist or Capitalist or Communist, or white fascist state, as long as there’s a ruling class to be protected, the working class are at the shit end of the stick and they will continue being the victims, for as long as State structures are existing oppression of the working class will be the name of the game.

The police force is therefore a simpleton of a larger problem and that Is the state…destroy the machine and you have no need for lubrication. ANARCHY, PEACE AND FREEDOM !!!!


INSERT ADDED TO REVOLT IN EARLY 1993:

We stand by our position in this article that armed action against the ruling class and its agents, notably the cops is legitimate and justified. However, we DO NOT condone in any manner the recent (early 1993) attacks perpetrated by APLA on White civilians. Our aim is the destruction of the regime, not the murder of ordinary working people, Black or White. Turn the guns on the real enemy!

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).