No one is above the law
NOTHING will bring Mido Macia back –
that’s beyond the purview of justice in
the here and now – but after Judge Bert
Bam’s ruling in the High Court in Preto-
ria this week, police officers will think twice about
taking the law into their own hands.
On the afternoon of February 26, 2013, Macia was
arrested for parking his taxi illegally at a taxi rank
in Daveyton. The policemen handcuffed his hands
behind his head to a police van and dragged him
through the streets and then beat him to death in
the police cells. On Wednesday, Judge Bam sen-
tenced the eight officers, whom he had earlier con-
victed on the doctrine of common purpose, to
15 years’ imprisonment for murder.
It’s a judgment that has come at the right time in
South African society as police stand accused of ex-
ecuting suspected gunman Khulekani Mpanza in
cold blood in Krugersdorp. This case has polarised
the nation. Many believe the police have every right
to shoot to kill as exhorted previously by a national
police commissioner and a deputy minister, no less.
Others are aghast at this flagrant breach of the
law, to say nothing of the constitution. Judge Bam’s
judgment recalibrates the argument entirely.
First, no one is above the law and second, those
who we entrust to uphold the law have a greater ob-
ligation than normal citizens not to break it.
That’s precisely how it should be, right down to
the use of the common purpose doctrine, much
loathed in the apartheid era because it was abused
to send batches of activists to the Island or the gal-
lows. In this case it was absolutely fitting, since
good officers must stop bad officers, which in this
case patently didn’t happen.
We all sympathise with the plight of the police,
but we can never condone any situation where they
unilaterally ascribe to themselves the roles of
judge, jury and executioner, because when we do
that, the war is lost – and so are we.