This week we investigate the seeming increase of deadly force used by police amid growing violent protests countrywide.
On 13 April 2012, 33-year old Andries Tatane was shot dead by police during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg in the Free state. The dramatic incident unfolded in front of SABC’s news cameras. When Tatane’s death was broadcast on TV screens across the country, it led to a national outcry and sharp criticism followed against the South African Police Service from all corners. In March last year, seven police officers accused of his murder and assault were acquitted in the Ficksburg Regional Court.
Since Andries Tatane’s death, at least forty-two more people were allegedly killed by police during country wide protests.
The most lethal use of violence by security forces against civilians in post-apartheid South Africa was to play out on 16 August 2012, just more than a year after Andries Tatane’s controversial death. Thirty-four people died when police opened fire at striking workers at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana. More than 70 others were wounded. The incident sparked international condemnation and the Farlam commission of inquiry into the incident is still underway.
But incidents where police used deadly force during protests continued. This month alone has seen a spate of killings of protestors allegedly by police. Four people died in Brits during a protest for running water; 28-year old Tshepo Babuseng was shot dead by a police officer during a protest over housing in Durban Deep, Roodepoort and a 15-year old youth was reportedly shot dead by police in Limpopo during service delivery protests this past weekend.
Municipal IQ, an organisation that studies the trends protests, notes that protests have become more violent over recent years. In their defence, police have acknowledged the public’s constitutional right to demonstrate but states that the police also has a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order and to protect property and lives during violent protests.
Are our police trigger-happy or acting in self-defence?
DEADLY FORCE was produced by Adél van Niekerk and airs Sunday, 2 February 2014 at 9:30pm on SABC3.
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