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Police officers who break the law: drastic action needed

Adv. Mushwana concerned about the allegations of police brutality during service delivery protests in places like Ermelo, Zandspruit, Ficksburg, and in other places.

Thursday, 14 April 2011. Johannesburg. The SA Human Rights Commission Chairperson Adv Lawrence Mushwana engaged the Independent Complaints Directorate this morning regarding the attack and subsequent death of Mr Andries Tatane, during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg yesterday.

Mr Tatane’s death is believed to have occurred as a result of being attacked, by members of the police. Last night SABC TV news bulletins showed shocking video images of the unarmed Mr Tatane being attacked by members of the police.

The video also showed how the armed police men cornered him and subsequently stroke him with their batons and kicked him, in an attack that apparently lasted for a few minutes. In addition, he was seen in the video holding his hand against his chest after the attack.  Afterwards, he collapsed and died on the scene before an ambulance could arrive.

Adv Mushwana wants to ensure that no stone is left unturned when the ICD begins its investigation into the attack and subsequent death of this man. The ICD has assured Adv Mushwana that it has already dispatched a team of investigators to Ficksburg to begin with their work.

Mr Tatane was apparently part of about 4000 residents who marched to the Setsoto municipal offices in Ficksburg yesterday to demand a response to their memorandum of demands they had sent to the Mayor and the Municipal Manager.

The Commission is concerned about what appears to be a trend around the country whereby the human rights of innocent residents are violated by the members of the police when they exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of using protest as a of form expression to raise legitimate socio-economic concerns with their elected representatives.

Recently, members of the SAPS Tactical Response Team are also alleged to have attacked a man during service delivery protests in Ermelo in Mpumalanga and the ICD is also investigating this matter. There are also reports that the police used excessive force to control the crowd during another protest in Zandspruit, North of Johannesburg.

The alleged conduct of the police in all these incidents contradicts Section 205 of the Constitution which provides that members of the police have a duty to among others: maintain public order; protect and secure South Africa’s inhabitants; and to enforce the law.

Earlier in the year the Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa assured the country that stern action will be taken against those SAPS members who are found have been involved in acts of brutality because: “No member of the South African Police Service is beyond reproach or above-the-law, irrespective of whatever circumstance they are faced with in the execution of their duties.  Equally, police management are duty-bound to ensure officers uphold the principles of Batho Pele at all times”.

As a result, Adv Mushwana wants to ensure that the ICD uses its mandate to deal with those SAPS members who violate the law, as the Minister has promised.


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