Police brutality in South Africa is hardly new. Most people probably avoid speaking out about it publicly, fearing the unwelcome sound of jack-boots outside their front door in the early hours of the morning, or late hours of the night – just as the police under our former apartheid government were inclined to manoeuvre.
Or perhaps most people are caught in two minds about our police: they would rather have them as a barrier between us [the presumably law-abiding citizens] and the rampant lawlessness engulfing the country - brutality, corruption and incompetence notwithstanding, as opposed to being totally exposed.
Even as I read this blog yesterday by Llewellyn Kriel in M&G’s Thought Leader which describes his personal ordeal of being bullied, manhandled and humiliated by the police at a roadblock, I had no idea of the drama that had unfolded earlier in the day, in Ficksburg in the Free State, also involving our out-of-control police service.
In the latter incident, police brutally assaulted and
killed murdered a protestor who was participating in a public demonstration against the ANC-government’s poor record of service delivery in the area.
As Pierre de Vos argues on Constitutionally Speaking, this is not a very healthy state of affairs for our democracy, flawed as it is:
Where the police becomes a law unto itself, where it sees itself as at war with the community, where it is politicised and sees its task a protecting the leaders of a specific faction of the governing party (as the apartheid era police did), then the police becomes a threat to democracy. Instead of working in partnership with communities to solve crimes, they take sides and see any kind of political protest as illegitimate and as part of a plot to overthrow the government. When that happens the police stops being an institution in service of democracy and starts being an institution in service of itself and of that faction it serves.
Read the full article here.