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Little has been heard about the 10 people killed in the lead up to Marikana
2015/07/26

Media Statement from the National Media Centre
Corporate Communication
South African Police Service

Pretoria - Since the release of the much awaited Farlam Commission's Report, a lot has been said about the state of Public Order Policing.  Most of it was unsurprisingly negative, particularly with regard to the role played by the 740 police men and women and their commanders, who were deployed to manage the rather testing public order situation which had developed in Marikana. We received the report with a sense of relief after three long years. In order to better understand the implications for the South African Police Service (SAPS), a team comprising of legal and public order policing experts were tasked to study the Commission's Report and develop an implementation plan in respect of relevant recommendations. My team and I have been providing continuous psychological support, through the relevant structures of the SAPS, to the police officers at the centre of events on that tragic day. These officers will also be provided with legal support in line with SAPS regulations as they were on duty at the time of the tragedy. 

 When I joined the SAPS three years ago, there was already a plan on the table to enhance public order policing. The issues raised in the report, some of which are institutional and systematic, are acknowledged and the majority of them have already been addressed in the public order policing policy, which was approved by the former Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, in October 2011.

 The policy emphasises principles such as the legal aspects of crowd management and situational appropriateness at that particular time, taking both the participants and non-participants into consideration, as well as the proportional force to be used.  Based on this new policy developed by the Civilian Secretariat for Police, as management we immediately initiated a review of the Public Order Policing Operational Standards, Use of Force Directive and Training Modules. During the Commission’s hearing we submitted an enhanced Standing Order 262 – which deals with public order policing instructions and guidelines. Once we are done with studying the Commission’s Report, we will factor in some of the recommendations and then assemble a team of local and international experts for further consultations.

We embrace the issue of demilitarizing the police and creating law enforcers who are professional, trustworthy and respected. In line with the National Development Plan (NDP) we have embarked on a number on interventions and these include amongst others:

 

 The revision of the SAPS Training Curriculum to enhance local flavour and relevance towards producing the type of police official South Africa wants. It has to be in line with the ethos and values of community policing. The curriculum has also been enhanced whereby the aspect of human rights is now at the centre. We have signed an MOU with the Human Rights Commission to assist in this regard. We are also going to conduct focus group consultations on the curriculum with various tertiary education institutions.

 SAPS members from local police stations and members of the Metro Police are receiving First Responders Training in Public Order Policing. We have already trained 2500 Metro Police and SAPS members. We plan to train a further 4500 station members during the current financial year.

Public Order Policing is now offered as part of our entry level qualification so that we increase capacity for future demand.

The Public Order Policing course has been reviewed and it now places emphasis on intelligence-led crowd management, dealing with spontaneous protests, developing operational plans, arrests and prosecution. We will now have specialist detectives who will ensure that those arrested are successfully prosecuted.

 Most importantly, Public Order Policing platoon commanders are now required to attend the Operational Commanders Training course to teach them how to manage their team and plan for possible scenarios, particularly in volatile situations.

 The Pubic Order Policing capacitation has been presented to Cabinet and the Portfolio Committee on Police and well canvased with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster. To achieve this, we have requested a R3.3 billion capital boost over a four-year period which provides for the re-opening of dormant Public Order Policing units and starting new ones across the country. This will increase the number of units from 28 to 54, nearly doubling personnel to 8000. The biggest benefit of enhanced units will be improved response time, particularly to spontaneous incidents and better service.

Throughout this capacity enhancement process, training and refresher training will be prioritized. We have already bought equipment, such as the long range acoustic device, which will ensure that there is sufficient space between the police and protesters to avoid clashes. Also, we have bought video cameras and hired professional videographers. We are now busy training our personnel in conflict resolution negotiation skills. The agreement between SAPS and the Centre for Scientific Research will enable the police to benefit from the research with which the CSIR is busy to modernise Public Order Policing equipment and systems. We are also engaging the likes of Denel to explore potential local support.

As for my part, I fully acknowledge the recommendations made by the Commission and will respond to the President as directed. We have picked up some of the areas where we strongly disagree with the content of the report, such as the insinuation that management went to work that day with murderous intent. But this is a discussion for another day.

Policing is a service. Although it is highly regulated, it has to be adaptable to different socio-political conditions. Our protest situation is marred by widespread violence, intimidation and a high degree of intolerance of those with opposing views. By way of example, I have just received a letter from the transport industry, which is preparing for a strike next month. They are concerned about the violence which often accompanies strikes and the possibility that they may experience the same. They are concerned that non-striking workers may be intimidated, attacked and assaulted and that property belonging to both non-strikers and their businesses may be damaged or stolen. They are also concerned that their executives may be attacked, as these things have happened in the past.

Although the Commission has extensively touched on public violence, condemnation from commentators is not as loud as it should be. In the few instances during which public violence was mentioned and sometimes condemned, it was portrayed as acts committed by a few rogue elements. This even when 10 people had lost their lives before the tragic events of that fateful day. As the SAPS, we believe that our society and especially those in prominent positions must continuously drive home the fact that violence in whatever form must never characterise a strike. The carrying of dangerous weapons must be condemned. And those strikers who carry these weapons during strikes must be exposed and brought to account. Strikers must always bear in mind that their non-striking colleagues have rights too and should not be harassed or assaulted should they decide not to take part in the strike.

 Dealing with all of these things needs the active participation of the communities, labour unions, the media and NGOs. It cannot be left up to the police alone to ensure that strikes are free from violence. We believe that the lessons from the Marikana tragedy are a good start for our society, workers and the police to change the trajectory. As the SAPS we are fully committed to improving our public order policing and action towards achieving that is well underway.

 The Marikana heartbreak will remain with us forever as a painful memory of something all of us, the police and everyone involved in public protests, would never want to see again. It is up to all of us to ensure that it never happens again. It would be a huge mistake just to leave it to the police alone to find solutions to societal problems. At a personal level, I am particularly saddened by the loss of life, the 10 people who died before the events of August 16 and the 34 who were killed on the day. There was very little focus by the Commission and the commentators, unfortunately, on the 10 deaths. Seeing the families of the police officers and security guards killed amongst the 10 has caused further scars and I am sure that somehow they will find justice. 

-End-

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Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale

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