Nh­leko steps up to bat

CityPress - - Voices -

For once, no­body was laugh­ing at Nathi Nh­leko. The na­tion lis­tened at­ten­tively as the po­lice min­is­ter spoke about the steps that gov­ern­ment would be tak­ing to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Far­lam in­quiry into the Marikana mas­sacre. There were no gaffes on his part – no drench­ing of his hand­ker­chief with rivers of per­spi­ra­tion and no strange videos. He was se­ri­ous and the con­tent was se­ri­ous. Given how he shred­ded his rep­u­ta­tion with the han­dling of the Nkandla mat­ter and the record of gov­ern­ment in im­ple­ment­ing un­der­tak­ings, the temp­ta­tion to be cyn­i­cal would be great.

The cyn­i­cism would go along the lines of: Three years af­ter the mas­sacre, five months af­ter re­tired Judge Ian Far­lam handed the re­port to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, two months af­ter the public re­lease of the find­ings and the only sub­stan­tial ac­tion is the an­nounce­ment of a yet-to-be con­sti­tuted panel on public polic­ing that will take 15 months to com­plete its work and an un­named task team to over­see trans­for­ma­tion? Such cyn­i­cism would be jus­ti­fied given there are some no-brainer mea­sures that could al­ready have been em­barked upon while the com­mis­sion was sit­ting.

For in­stance, the de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion of the po­lice ser­vice was rec­om­mended by the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan in Novem­ber 2011. The mas­sacre eight months later should have ex­pe­dited its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The re­moval of as­sault ri­fles and live am­mu­ni­tion from public or­der polic­ing should have been an ob­vi­ous and im­me­di­ate step. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of protests – more than 10 000 a year – should have seen more proac­tive ac­tion around re­train­ing and up­skilling public or­der po­lice.

But as in­di­cated, we be­lieve this is no time for cyn­i­cism. Nh­leko has taken on board the com­mis­sion’s find­ings (if only he could have done the same with the Public Pro­tec­tor’s) and he must be sup­ported in their im­ple­men­ta­tion. Busi­ness, civil so­ci­ety, academia and the re­li­gious sec­tor must as­sist gov­ern­ment in build­ing a pro­fes­sional, re­spon­sive and eth­i­cal po­lice ser­vice. For his part, Nh­leko and his col­leagues must welcome help and not treat out­siders with sus­pi­cion.

This na­tion will carry the Marikana scars for decades to come and some may never heal. Let us use this op­por­tu­nity to build a po­lice ser­vice that serves all and put be­hind us the killing cul­ture that the ser­vice in­her­ited from its pre­de­ces­sors.

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