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Sunday, April 25, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK

World: Africa

Mbeki: Apartheid behind police violence

Post-apartheid South Africa still faces immense challenges

The South African Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, has denounced recent police brutality and blamed it on the legacy of apartheid.

He was referring to the BBC report which showed police beating and kicking suspected car thieves.

Watch the exclusive BBC video footage
Mr Mbeki called for understanding, saying that in the years of apartheid brutality had been routine.

Under apartheid there was a "culture that developed among police, that they could get rid of people by any means that they wished", he said.

However, he said if police broke the law, they should be prosecuted.

Six white police officers were suspended last week and are due to face criminal charges.

Police have said another eight officers, some of them black, will be suspended on Monday.

The film caused uproar in South Africa after it was broadcast in Britain on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

It showed members of a Johannesburg police squad kicking suspected car thieves in the face, stubbing out a cigarette on one, and setting a police dog on them.

Another section of the tape featured police beating a suspected car thief with a rifle after dragging him and another man semi-conscious from a car crash.

[ image: A police dog was set on the men]
A police dog was set on the men
One of the men later died in hospital, but it was unclear whether he died from injuries resulting from the crash, the beating or another cause.

Police commissioner George Fivaz has ordered an independent inquiry into the incidents.

Some observers said police brutality should be put down to the stress of fighting the high levels of crime that have followed the country's transition to democracy.

Some 1,000 police officers have been murdered since the end of apartheid in 1994.

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