Cartoon On Police Torture Is Misleading

In the 1930s, when Russia was facing severe food shortages as a result of the eviction of 10 million kulak farmers from their lands, communists used to console their supporters by saying that although things were bad, they would have been much worse had the Tsarist regime still been in power.

Similarly, one gets the impression from the cartoon in the Mercury on August 18 showing a pile of skulls representing the victims of police torture during the apartheid era, that the intention is to deflect attention away from current police brutality by focusing on atrocities of the past.

As such, that cartoon is an exercise in propaganda. It is also grossly inaccurate and disingenuous because during the apartheid era between 1963 and 1985 the number of deaths that occurred in police custody was 74. Yet between 2006 and 2011 the number of deaths in police custody exceeded 4,000 (See: Mercury, March 4, 2013, and SA Security Studies).

That reality is corroborated by RW Johnson in his book How long can South Africa survive (2015 edition) p. 177 where he states “torture and maltreatment of prisoners in police custody has sky-rocketed to a level far worse  than under apartheid.”  

While one sympathises with the Timol family in seeking closure on the tragic death of Ahmed Timol in 1971, it is difficult to escape the feeling that the inquest is being exploited for political reasons, namely, to attempt to sustain focus on atrocities that occurred before 1994 so as to deflect scrutiny from atrocities that are occurring in the so-called liberation era, despite section 12 of the constitution which prohibits police torture.

Sent into The Mercury and published, August 15, 2017.

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