While the police are within their rights to use force, they are legally required to plan operations to avoid loss of life or destruction of property.
This is the view of policing experts following the recent killing of a suspect and burning down of his Orange Farm home last week – an incident being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Vusi Nhlapo – said to have been served with a restraining order and suspected of three cases of attempted murder – was shot dead by police, who also allegedly burnt down a four-roomed home belonging to his mother Thandi, who witnessed the incident.
Gareth Newham, head of the justice and violence prevention programme with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said: “Police may only shoot in self-defence or to effect an arrest where they have reasonable grounds to believe that a suspect has committed a crime involving grievous bodily harm, and that there is little chance of arresting them at a later stage.
“Ipid is required by law to investigate all incidents where a person dies as a result of police action or while in police custody.”
Andrew Faull, an ISS consultant and author of Police Work and Identity – a South African Ethnography, said he couldn’t understand why police would burn down the Nhlapo home.
“They would need to explain why it was necessary to damage the house and would immediately need to offer reimbursement and support for damage done,” he said.
Faull said it was not yet clear “what incremental steps may have been taken prior to this lethal force incident”.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said investigations would take about six weeks.
“We received the report on July 27 and due to the incident being of a gruesome nature, we’ve involved other parties …”