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Investigations into some of the killings committed during the year were ongoing, and some perpetrators had been punished by year's end.The country had a high crime rate, and criminals were often better armed than police.
According to the governmental Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), there were 294 deaths in police custody and 566 deaths as a result of other police action during the year ending March 31, a 6 percent decrease from the previous year.
The country has a population of approximately 50 million.
In April 2009 the country held a largely free and fair national election in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won 65.9 percent of the vote and 264 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, which then elected ANC President Jacob Zuma as the country's president. Principal human rights problems included police use of lethal and excessive force, including torture, against suspects and detainees, which resulted in deaths and injuries; vigilante and mob violence; prison overcrowding and abuse of prisoners, including beatings and rape by prison guards; arbitrary arrest; lengthy delays in trials and prolonged pretrial detention; forcible dispersal of demonstrations; pervasive violence against women and children; societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; trafficking in persons; violence resulting from racial and ethnic tensions and conflicts with foreigners; and child labor, including forced child labor and child prostitution.
Of the 860 deaths, 479 resulted from being shot, 122 from assault, 112 due to suicide, 93 from natural causes while in custody, 27 as a result of injuries from being struck by a police vehicle, 15 as the result of an auto collision, seven as the result of torture, three from suffocation, and two from poisoning.
On April 8, at a tavern in the Free State, Police Constable Elliot Khaka shot and killed Sombane Lungile after Lungile allegedly attempted to steal a car belonging to another constable who was with Khaka.
On November 15, the Free State High Court convicted Khaka of murder and sentenced him to 12 years' imprisonment.