South African police officers are being investigated following some 20 deaths that occurred during social unrest in different parts of the country last July, South African authorities revealed on Friday.
“Twenty-six police-related deaths are under investigation, including 17 in KwaZulu-Natal province and nine in Gauteng,” the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) said.
It added that the police officers involved are suspected of having caused the deaths of individuals in police custody or during operations carried out in connection with the violent riots and looting that have ravaged the two provinces.
“IPID recorded a total of 74 cases of police violence, of which 61 were in KwaZulu-Natal and 13 in Gauteng. These include 25 cases of assault, 17 complaints of firearm discharge and two cases of torture by South African Police Service (SAPS) officers or municipal police officers,” the same source said.
Last July, South Africa was rocked by deadly violence and unprecedented riots following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, who was found guilty of contempt of court.
The KwZulu-Natal provincial government declared a state of disaster due to the extent of the economic and human damage caused by the violent riots. According to official figures, South Africa lost more than 50 billion Rand (more than $3 billion) during the riots.
The human toll was also very high, with as many as 330 people killed, including in stampedes during the looting of shopping centers.