Police do not have a licence to kill – Zuma
Long history of shootings
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has warned that police don’t have a licence to killm while the secretary of police pointed out that police killings of civilians had been on the increase before the shoot-to-kill controversy.
After doing damage control in Parliament on Thursday, Zuma issued a strongly worded statement yesterday that shoot-to-kill was neither legal nor government policy.
“No police officer has the permission to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law. The law does not give the police a licence to kill,” he said.
Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said civilian deaths were inevitable during crime operations. He uncompromisingly repeated his radical statement including “yes, shoot the bastard, hard-nut to crack, incorrigible criminals”.
But the president emphasised that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has outlined a comprehensive and effective crime strategy.
“Our government wants to reduce serious and violent crimes by the set target of 7% to 10% per annum… it is tragically misleading to reduce our strategy and activities to the amendment of a section of one law,” he said.
Zuma did not totally rule out the use of deadly force.
“It is the duty of the police to protect all people against injury or loss of life. But when their lives or the lives of innocent civilians are threatened, police sometimes have no choice but to use lethal force.”
Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane, the civilian police secretary in charge of policy in SAPS, said the police ministry had noted an increase in incidents of police shootings of civilians over the past three years.
“Over the last three years the ministry has noticed an increased number of shootings of civilians by police officers. I don’t think you can attribute those to what is being printed sensationally in the media,” she said.
She was speaking at the security cluster briefing in parliament yesterday.
Figures contained in the annual report of the police watchdog the Independent Complaints Directorate, show that 612 people died as a result of police action in 2008/09. This is a 25 percent increase from the 490 people who were killed by police in the previous year.
Of the 612 people who died, 12 were innocent bystanders, up from only four in 2007/08.
There has been an uproar over the incidents of the killing of civilians by police officers.
This includes the killing of three-year-old Atlegang Aphane who was shot by police who apparently mistook a pipe he was carrying for a gun and the killing of Olga Kekana, a Pretoria hairdresser, who was killed when police shot at a car she was travelling in. The police apparently mistook the car for one that was reported hijacked in the area.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told the parliamentary media briefing the review of the criminal justice system, which was meant to oil the state’s crime fighting and prosecutions machinery, was on track.
He said a seven point plan on how to move forward with the review would be presented to the cabinet in due course.
There have been concerns in some quarters that the review had stalled since the new administration took over.