Law en­force­ment does not mean the use of bru­tal force

The Times (South Africa) - - Opinion&letters -

Thanks to a Cape Town po­lice­man, South Africa has a new ad­di­tion to its dis­mal gallery of pho­to­graphs stretch­ing back decades and de­pict­ing in­ex­cus­able bru­tal­ity on the part of law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

The po­lice­man, in a hel­met and body ar­mour, stands point­ing a weapon at three peo­ple — a 14-year-old boy and two women — as they cower be­hind an over­turned pic­nic ta­ble stolen by pro­test­ers from a Hout Bay wa­ter­front res­tau­rant on Tues­day.

In the back­ground lie the waters of one of Cape Town’s favourite hol­i­day beaches, and in the dis­tance are the mul­ti­mil­lion-rand apart­ments at 1 Chap­man’s Peak Drive.

It’s a per­fect de­pic­tion of one of the many

The po­lice­man fired rub­ber bul­lets, two of which hit the boy in the mouth

un­palat­able re­al­i­ties fac­ing a coun­try be­set by deep in­equal­ity where vi­o­lent protest has be­come the un­of­fi­cial 12th lan­guage of pub­lic dis­course and po­lice re­spond badly.

With the muz­zle of his Mus­grave 12-gauge pump-ac­tion shot­gun no fur­ther than 50cm from Ona Dubula’s head, the po­lice­man then fired sev­eral rub­ber bul­lets, two of which hit the boy in the mouth.

Ac­cord­ing to a na­tional in­struc­tion to pub­lic or­der po­lice in 2014, this should not have hap­pened. “Ap­proved rub­ber rounds may only be used as of­fen­sive mea­sures to dis­perse a crowd in ex­treme cir­cum­stances, if less force­ful meth­ods have proven in­ef­fec­tive,” it says.

“The de­gree of force must be pro­por­tional to the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion and the threat posed ... it must be rea­son­able in the cir­cum­stances; the min­i­mum force must be used to ac­com­plish the goal; and the use of force must be dis­con­tin­ued im­me­di­ately once the ob­jec­tive has been achieved.”

Some­thing went very wrong with the polic­ing of Hout Bay’s un­rest on Tues­day, as it did in Marikana five years ago. If, at some stage, we can find a per­ma­nent po­lice com­mis­sioner who turns out to be hon­est and com­pe­tent, this is some­thing he could ad­dress.

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