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