Six policemen have been ordered transferred or suspended from duty and six others are to be tried for murder in connection with recent deaths of black prisoners.
Amid allegations that two of the victims died from beatings under interrogation, the latest deaths have proved embarrassing for Justice Minister Jimmy Kruger who last year pledged new measures to protect detainees.
Six policemen and two civilians have been charged with the murder of Jankie Maklomola Matobako, 25, about four months ago, a senior police officer said yesterday.
Another policemen has been charged with assault following Matobako's death in a hospital in the town of Welkom eight days after he was arrested with four other men for housebreaking.
The seven policemen - three white sergeants and four black constables - will appear in court with the two other men Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, three security police officers were to be transfered from Port Elizabeth where another detainee, Lungile Tabalaza, 20, plunged to his death from a fifth-floor window while being interrogated July 10.
One of the three is section commander Col. Pieter Goosen, who was in charge of the interrogation of black leader Steve Biko shortly before his death from head injuries while in detention last year.
In another case, in the Natal Game Park village of Hluhlune, three policemen - two whites and a black - have been suspended pending an investigation into the death July 13 of Paulos Cane, 22, reportedly was savagely beaten.
Police chief Gen. Mike Geldenhuys said in Pretoria that the three cases were not connected.
"I wouldn't say it is a clean sweep," said Geldenhuys who became commissioner of South African police last month. "All reports are thoroughly investigated. It has always been like this."
Announcing the shakeup at the Post Elizabeth headquarters of the security police, Gen. Geldenhuys questioned police handling of the Tabalaza case.
"It would appear from the report that strict police instructions regarding the safety of detainees may not in this case have been strictly adhered to," he said in a statement.
Gen. Geldenhuys also said a new officer would be appointed in the inspectorate at national police headquarters in Pretoria to be "primarily responsible for security matters throughout the country."