No one is above the law

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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