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Fri May 06 05:18:35 CAT 2016

After Tatane came Marikana - let's hope it ends there

The Times Editorial | 01 November, 2012 00:47

The Times Editorial: The SA Human Rights Commission's finding that the police used excessive force on Ficksburg protester Andries Tatane, resulting in his injuries and subsequent death, offers valuable lessons for our men and women in blue.

Chief among them is the pressing need for police management to ensure that officers are properly trained and equipped to handle violent protests.

It is tragic that, 18 years into democracy, our police have still not learned how to control crowds, be they violent or just plain unruly.

The point was amply demonstrated at Marikana on August 16 when heavily armed officers opened fire on an aggressive crowd of striking miners armed mainly with iron bars, machetes and sticks.

The Farlam Commission is still investigating the tragedy but television footage of officers armed with R5 assault rifles firing hundreds of rounds of live ammunition at fellow South Africans - however menacing - must have had law-enforcement specialists around the world scratching their heads.

What happened to the principle of controlling a crowd through the deployment of overwhelming numbers of officers? Where were the visors, the shields, the batons? Why was only one water cannon available to the police? Why were the protesters not broken up into smaller groups, channelled off the koppie and disarmed? Was tear gas used effectively? Were sufficient rubber bullets fired before the police used live ammunition?

In finding that the police had used excessive force against Tatane - who was allegedly beaten and shot with rubber bullets - in Ficksburg on April 13 last year, the Human Rights Commission recommended that the police "improve training of police officers to ensure future police interventions in public protests result in a more peaceful outcome''.

It is to be hoped that our commissioner of police heeds the advice of the commission.

We simply cannot afford another Marikana.


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