COSATU statement on a panel of experts report on policing and crowd management by the police

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the recommendations released by Police Minister Bheki Cele in a report compiled by a panel of experts on policing and crowd management by the police. We have noted what Minister Bheki Cele has said that the bulk of the recommendations are to be realised in the short to medium term as they are incorporated into the SAPS Act Amendment Bill.

The Federation is troubled that the Minister seemed to be attempting to paint a rosy picture where everything is under control when the statistics paint a troubling picture of an organisation struggling to cope with a deteriorating situation in the country.

The Federation has been raising these issues sharply at Nedlac because issues of strikes policing, and crowd control affect our members directly. The fact that we are still losing lives at the hands of police during protests, almost a decade after the Marikana tragedy is unacceptable.

COSATU wants the Minister of Police to come and present the research that has been done to compare our situation to what is going on in other countries for engagements with social partners at Nedlac and other platforms. There are many unsubstantiated claims that were made by the Minister in his presentation on Monday that are not supported by facts on the ground, and this is troubling for workers.

We accept that there are many welcome provisions in the SAPS Amendment Bill.  These include the ban on using automatic guns during crowd control as well as the restrictions on when and how the SAPS can use force to protect the lives of members of the public and SAPS as well as property. 

The tightening of vetting and lifestyle audits are positive measures that can help reduce corrupt and criminal elements who besmirch the good names of dedicated SAPS members.

Whilst there are some positive provisions in the SAPS Amendment Bill, they will remain exactly that if the SAPS fails to follow through on the other recommendations of the Marikana Commission which spoke to the need to overhaul incompetent management. 

The SAPS needs to provide public order policing structures with the relevant training, e.g. negotiations, human rights, and use of non-lethal weaponry.  All SAPS members have to be fully equipped to perform their duties e.g. more non-lethal weaponry when managing crowds.  Investing in water cannons is a far better option than sending SAPS members out with live ammunition and rubber bullets and hoping for the best. 

A culture of accountability needs to be introduced to SAPS, in particular to management.  It has been decades since a National Commissioner of SAPS has retired or left without a cloud of suspicion hanging over them. We need a SAPS Code of Ethics that will be the anchor of the conduct of our police officers inside and outside of their workplaces.

Minister Cele needs to finally table the Firearms Amendment Bill in Parliament.  It has been sitting in the Ministry collecting dust for more than seven (7) years.  Each Minister comes and promises to table it and crack down on the flood of firearms floating in the country and then promptly forgets about it.  This is happening while an SAPS member is shot dead each week. 

We are troubled though that not all workers who were killed in Marikana have been recognised and their families compensated. Ten workers including two police officers and security guards were killed in the violence that flared up in Marikana between the 10th of August and the 16th of August 2012, before 34 innocent miners were killed by the police on the 16 of August.

We agree with our affiliated union Popcru that President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to establish an advisory committee on policing and security issues in the country to improve coordination. We also agree with Popcru that the country needs Public Order Policing and Human Rights Indaba to share ideas about cooperation and discuss the implementation of the key recommendations and other key interventions to improve policing in South Africa. A unilateral approach to fixing what is wrong with the police service will not work and has not worked before.

Issued by COSATU

 Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794