Constitutional Hill

BLA expresses grave concern about use of live ammunition by police

Black Lawyers Association notes with grave concern the ongoing use of live ammunition by members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) on service delivery protesters. This indiscriminate use of live ammunition has in reported cases resulted in fatalities and injuries visited on protesting civilians.

The pattern of police brutality we have seen in Mutlutlong, Roodepoort, Tzaneen and other places, took place against the backdrop of the Marikana massacre which happened just over a year ago. The disproportionate use of force by the police in dealing with crowd control negates the requirements, of a police action in a modern and democratic state like ours. The Marikana massacre was a defining moment in the history of our young democracy. It is regrettable that the leadership in the police services do not seem to have learned the lessons from the Marikana massacre. The worldwide outrage and condemnation of police actions that followed after that massacre should have been enough to make the leadership of the police to realise that more needs to be done to train police in new methods of crowd control. We say this mindful of the fact that there is a Commission of Inquiry which is underway.

We believe that the indifference of the leadership of the police to the calls for maximum restraint when dealing with protests ought to have consequences. It is lamentable that the leadership in the police has done very little to stop the culture of impunity, which has taken root in the police service. To the contrary, they seem to continuously justify the conduct of the police on an ongoing basis.

The pattern of flagrant disregard to the right to life and rights of citizens to protests as we have seen in recent past, serves to undermine the gains we have made as country in the new dispensation. There is unanimity that it is unacceptable for the civilians to be maimed and killed callously in the hands of those who are meant to protect them. In the same vein, protesting citizens should equally in the course of exercising their rights do so in a guarded manner which will assist in preventing the callous killings being perpetrated against them.

We call on the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) to expedite their investigations in all these cases and to press appropriate charges on those responsible. We believe that it could assist if the IPID were to have a constant comprehensive monitoring of police conduct henceforth. We further make a call that the IPID be given the space and resources to conduct its work independently and without fear or favour.

In the midst of all these, it would immensely assist if the political leadership were to beyond condemnation act decisively in ensuring that the aspired culture of rights enshrined under our Constitution are protected and not trampled upon by the police as we have seen in recent times.

If the police conduct goes unabated, the simmering culture of impunity has the potential of graduating into a norm.

Issued by P.B. Mabunda

  • Geraldene Jansen

    I totally agree. The SAPD is suppose to protect the citizens of South Africa. They used live ammunition in a crowd to get their point proven. I am sure that killing people who differs in opinion, was not in their job description. We are suppose to trust these people but we don’t because we know what they are capable of. Now the question stands: Who can we trust if we cannot even trust our own “protectors”?

  • Louis-Phillip Nel

    The Marikana massacre has shaded our country as being unable to control its citizens. The police were under threat but failed to use other crowd control measures before escalating to live ammunition. Majority of police officers do not earn a decent salary which further contributes to their turning to corruption within their position of power, and thereby abusing that entrusted power. Our government needs to stop making false promises and improve service delivery; by doing they free up the police force to combat crime which further improves the state of our country.

  • Shaheri Boodhraj

    It is obviously the duty of the police to protect the people of this country. However, many police officers become corrupt and abuse their powers as police officers.

    When strikes occur, the police are forced to use live ammunition on the crowds, why?, because rubber bullets and tear gas no longer work on such crowds and it is a sad thing, because the lives of many people, who are involved in these strikes, are taken and the they decide to complain about the police using live ammunition. I personally don’t think thats right.

    However, it is also the duty of the strikers to carry out their strike in an organised manner and not to be violent and to damage any property and/or whatever is in their way, because it will definitely take a lot of money to replace damaged property.

    On the other hand, every person has a right to life and, the fact that the police go on a ‘shooting-spree’ using live ammunition, taking the lives of a few strikers and maybe also the lives of people that are not even involved in the strike, is rather unconstitutional.

    The police should rather work on a plan of action that would keep such violent crowds under control, not harming their lives while doing so and to make sure that no damage of property would occur.

  • Niel du Preez

    the SAPD have a responsibility to the people of south
    Africa. They were trained and appointed to protect us, they carry firearms to keep
    the population of South Africa safe, not to use them on service delivery
    protesters, But according to the defence web (
    police have raised concerns that the large number of violent protests undermines
    their crime-prevention efforts. When protestors blockade roads and damage
    property, the police need to divert their resources away from other
    responsibilities and activities in order to disperse protestors. thus the use
    of live ammunition is a necessary elements to control violent protesters and
    allow the SAPD to efficiently protect the people of South Africa.

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