South Africa 25.1.2014 09:00 am

Cops hung out to dry

Residents gesture to police during violent protests, 14 January 2014, in Damonsville, North West Province. Residents have been protesting over the lack and bad quality of water in the area for the past few days. Yesterday (13 January 2013) police allegedly opened fire on protesters with live ammunition killing two, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) have been called in to investigate. Picture: Alaister Russell

Residents gesture to police during violent protests, 14 January 2014, in Damonsville, North West Province. Residents have been protesting over the lack and bad quality of water in the area for the past few days. Yesterday (13 January 2013) police allegedly opened fire on protesters with live ammunition killing two, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) have been called in to investigate. Picture: Alaister Russell

Police officers involved in the deaths of four men during service delivery riots in Damonsville, outside Brits in the North West Province, are being hung out to dry because this is an election year.

Political analyst Andre Duvenhage of North West University said government had reacted quickly by suspending Madibeng mayor Poppy Magongoa, municipal ANC chief whip Solly Malete and speaker Buti Makhongela because of no water in the area. Their resulting resignations followed soon after.

“It is now election time, so it is difficult for government not to react in a definite way. The suspended police officers are taking the bullet for this one, I am afraid to say,” Duvenhage said.

“Government is definitely doing damage control. We know there is a lot of pressure on the ANC in that area, so they need to react in order to restore or retain the moral high ground.”

Duvenhage said appointing a person from the same department as the suspended officers was a problem.

Yesterday Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said North West Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Mbombo had appointed Public Order Policing head Brigadier ZM Mkhwanazi to investigate four counts of murder and four of attempted murder.

Mthethwa said the investigation was running parallel with Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). Six officers had been suspended and eight more were facing suspension in the next 60 days.

One of the key findings of the investigation was that crowd dispersal did not take place according to the provisions of the Gatherings Act and the force used to disperse the crowd was disproportional.

“It is a bit of a conflict of interest. We need an independent investigator, because there was a lot of misconduct involved,” said Duvenhage. “I would rather see Thuli Madonsela from the Public Protector’s office involved to obtain an independent idea of what is going on. I believe a number of the suspended officers were also involved with the Marikana incident – and there are parallels.”

Rodney Tshelani, from the local community policing forum. said he was glad the officers were being suspended.

“It is good if the perpetrators have been caught, but there is no use suspending them with full pay. It is not going to solve the problem.”

He said the mood in the area was sombre, because people were preparing to bury Lerato Seema in Limpopo Province today. He died due to head injuries at Job Shimankana Tabane Hospital in Rustenburg on January 15 after police allegedly pushed him from a moving armoured vehicle.

Senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Johan Burger said that the Minister tasked the police to investigate the incident without waiting for the outcome of the criminal investigation by Ipid is precisely what the ISS has been calling for.

“Police always referring investigations to Ipid is simply not good enough. It has a specific mandate, but the police also has a very specific responsibility to its members and the public.

“So if there is an instance where the police used force that was excessive, unnecessary, or unlawful, the police need to confirm what has happened and how it could be prevented in the future.”

 

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