THE killing of a man linked by police with a service delivery protest in Ficksburg has shocked the nation.
Andries Tatane was shot and beaten to death in full view of an SABC television crew. Video footage of the killing was broadcast on the SABC’s prime time news bulletin.
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation, including a strongly worded statement by the ANC’s Jackson Mthembu.
He said the incident could only be described “as resembling apartheid era police strong arm tactics, showing total disregard for human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution.”
It was a statement which is deserving of close examination.
Mthembu was juxtaposing the actions of the police with the protection of human rights contained in the constitution.
This is a long overdue repudiation of those in government and the police who appear to regard the constitution as an obstacle to effective policing.
This camp has held sway in government’s security cluster under the government of President Jacob Zuma.
One of their first acts was to re-militarise the police service, which they renamed the “police force”.
Ranks were dished out and commissioner Bheki Cele awarded himself the rank of “General” — Muammar Gaddafi was happy to settle for the lower rank of Colonel — and proceeded to stoke up within the police force the notion that they were to use their weapons more freely.
At the time, the move drew strong criticism from the ANC’s Kader Asmal, who wrote a letter to the Sunday Times in which he asked: “Has the Cabinet taken leave of its senses?”
Asmal went on: “I have news for them. If they want to travel along the road where law enforcement is perceived as the enemy of the people, they will have to deal with the Constitution. Under section 205, the police are described as a service (my emphasis) and under subsection (3), they are enjoined to uphold and enforce the law, which would involve strict adherence to the Constitution.”
Asmal was ignored and the bodies began to pile up. Some of these bodies were those of “suspected criminals” shot dead at road blocks and the public committed the cardinal mistake of shrugging and looking the other way.
What the SABC’s broadcast did was remind this country of the terrible consequences of a police force which believes itself to be a law unto itself.
Mthembu’s statement went on to criticise the SABC for broadcasting the images, which was a pity.
Tatane’s tragic death has woken this nation up to the extent to which the values of the new South Africa have been eroded by careless policy making.
It is time to return to the values that make us great.
THIS just in: Deputy Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula says innocent lives will be lost as police fight crime with lethal force and that’s just one of those things …
His exact words, as quoted on Sapa: “In the course of any duty the innocent will be victimised. In this particular situation where you are caught in combat with criminals, innocent people are going to die not deliberately but in the exchange of fire. They are going to be caught on the wrong side, not deliberately but unavoidably.”
More: “We cannot say to the police, retreat. We cannot say to South Africans, despair. Our job is to give people hope.”
And then that statement again: “Yes. Shoot the bastards. Hard-nut to crack, incorrigible bastards.”
From the Sapa story:
Mbalula said the promised amendments to section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act would be tabled in Parliament next year, but would not amount to an overhaul of the act.
In essence, lawmakers would change the act “in terms of emphasis on the word ’necessary’” to remove ambiguity in the law, the deputy minister said. He gave no further details.
Section 49 states that if someone suspected to have committed a serious or violent crime resists arrest, the police may “use such force as may in the circumstances be reasonably necessary to overcome the resistance or prevent the person concerned from fleeing”.
This from a commenter on this blog calling himself Ian Doha:
President Zuma – you mentioned ongoing meetings with the public sector. The public sector has shown its inability to deal with crime over and over. It is time to draw in private sector resources to a greater extent -not guards, but their planning capability, like at BAC and SABRIC, to name only two.
To raise the numbers of policemen by 20-odd thousand is not going to get results – focusing on developing their capabilities will. Read up a bit on capabilities-based planning as approached by especially military forces elsewhere.
Throwing more money at Forensic Science Laboratories will be meaningless unless the people’s capabilities are developed, or better people recruited. From personal experience I know that the equipment is there but the majority of the personnel do not even know how to use standard computer software.
Changing the name of the service to a force (a) harkens back to the apartheid years, and (b) will by itself do nothing to promote effectiveness – only more money to be spent on changing stationary, vehicle signage etc. The same goes for the rank structure. By the way Mr. President, the name “inspector” is world-wide recognised as a police rank.
Cash in transit heists – the private sector, under the auspices of the SARB, have now for 5 years been given time to sort out their business and to ensure that they self-regulate and put proper standards in place. This has obviously failed so government regulation should be the next step. Use the best practise standards of a company like SBV and enforce it throughout. This will soon get rid of the fly-by-nights.
It is good and well to talk up a storm about action that wil be taken against poor station commanders, but it is time that you start making some examples. Some of these commanders are literaly getting away with murder.
Your refer to the crime stats as showing “considerable progress”. Well, I suggest you talk to the head of crime statistics and find out exactly how the stats are calculated – it will make your blood curdle. Then engage the banking sector and insurance sector to obtain the real levels of fraud in only those environments. The police commercial crime stats only relate to reported cases.
In the final analysis the problem of crime can be traced back to the following five issues: (1) the porous borders (see the contribution of foreigners to inter alia fraud, CIT, bank robberies); (2) lack of visible policing; (3) an ineffective prosecution system; (4) lack of properly embarking on PPP strategies harnessing the private sector (despite the fact that you all say you do); (5) failure to recognise that most of the trio crimes are organised in nature, and dealing with it accordingly.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. Thanks Ian
SECTION 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act is to be amended to allow police greater freedom to react with deadly force, says Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa.
No details of the proposed amendments, which he says are ready to go to Parliament have been made available.
Said he: “We must hasten to say that trigger-happy members of the police must not think that this is a licence to kill. It is a measure aimed specifically at serious violent crimes and dangerous criminals.”
But the new Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele could not resist a little macho turn, stating that “the only language R 5s understand is an R 5”.
And, for good measure: “these guys carry R 5s and when they squeeze [the trigger] it does not produce photos.”
But what exactly will these amendments mean for the police?
They are already empowered to act with deadly force when their lives are in danger. Just this Monday, they shot dead six would-be robbers.
They have not been suspended or charged with any offence.
The danger is that police will now act with impunity in situations where they would previously have thought twice before firing.
The consequences of this could be that the innocent or those not threatening the lives of the police might be shot down unnecessarily.
Even more disturbing is the language used by police officialdom. Take this sentence from Mthethwa, for example:
“We know the gangs roaming our streets and know the kind of misery and pain they cause in our society. These criminals sit and plan with military precision. These are our targets.”
This is spine-chilling and it suggests that police might draw up lists of those to be hunted and killed.
THERE is no more painful illustration of the damage that crime does to society than the gunning down of a twelve-year-old cell phone thief by his enraged victim.
The 12-year-old took the cell phone from the man’s car in a smash-and-grab incident, then ran away.
But the victim did not leave it at that. He got out of his car and pursued the child, firing a warning shot.
Then, according to sketchy early reports, when the child stopped running, he shot him dead.
Police are looking for the shooter and have called on the public to help them with information.
Race is removed from the equation as a motive as it seems both the crime victim and the dead thief were black.
What remains is a tragic illustration of a country’s descent into violence as the law fails to halt the epidemic of crime.
That a twelve-year-old should be involved in crime is shocking enough in the first place.
South Africa is paying billions of rands in social welfare benefits to make it unnecessary for any child to be without food, clothing and schooling.
But the lure of crime and the powerful influence of criminals in communities has led to children entering the underworld.
Then there is the rage of the victim, who knew that no justice would ever be done over this theft.
He committed a grotesque crime and this can never be excused. But, just as there is a context of poverty behind crime, so too there is a context of powerlessness behind the over-reaction of victims.
The fact of the matter is that the police have long abandoned the active search for perpetrators of such “minor crimes” as cell phone theft.
The door has been opened for anger to find its way onto the streets and the consequences will be more blood.