I read with utter dismay the other day that our President, Jacob Zuma supports an amendment to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which will give the police the power to “shoot to kill.”
The crime situation in South Africa is without doubt, very severe. No one denies this; except the criminals, off course, and a few idiot politicians. But then, politicians are no better than criminals; probably worse. And criminals from all over Africa, even the world are flocking to this country because they’ve all heard how ineffective our police are; how our police hire security guards to protect their police stations, how easily our police can be convinced to co-operate in criminal activity (note that I’m not saying all our police, but far too many for comfort). Oh yes, they’ve also heard that in South Africa crime does pay – very well too, and if common thievery and other criminal acts gets too rough for the criminal, there’s always public office!
But instead of solving the root problems that make criminal activity so attractive in this very attractive country of ours, the government responds emotionally by saying “let’s give them the power to shoot to kill.” How unimaginably dumb is that. The last thing the citizens of any country want to do is give more power to the state or its organs. Power belongs to the people, not the state. Allowing the police to shoot indiscriminately can only lead to the unfortunate loss of innocent lives; not to mention potential trigger-happy, power-drunk policemen and women having more power over me, than I care to tolerate.
I’ve searched deeply for answers to our crime situation, and I always come back to the same conclusion – the police are incapable of protecting and serving the public; the knowledge and familiarity of which empowers criminals, and entrenches criminality and lawlessness. Why are our police so powerless to alleviate the crime problem? Here again, I am always led to the same conclusion – poor training, and the reprehensible belief that the badge confers special powers and rights to the wearer.
The police in this country were trained originally, in the arts of propping up illegitimate governments. I’m referring to the apartheid system. The police back then, were taught to enforce laws that kept this apartheid government in power – they were trained to protect and serve the old government, not the people. I know what it sounds like. The old apartheid scapegoat! It’s just too easy to blame apartheid again, isn’t it? But I’m not blaming apartheid; I’m blaming poor training and a mentality that has endured past it’s acceptability date (not that it ever was acceptable).
This legacy lives on – it is perpetuated in the training today, and that mentality has not been eradicated. Our police just want to fill jail cells, and show how powerful they are – they don’t seem to want to put in the effort required of detective work, and respecting the public that pays their salary. But then again, I suspect these guys have never properly, been shown how to.
And then there is the question of poor pay. But properly skilled police will (and should) be remunerated according to the levels of skill they acquire – just moving through the ranks with time, as is obviously customary at present, should cease. A well-trained, well-paid and motivated police force who… well, solve crimes, apprehend the perpetrators and ensure that the courts can prosecute successfully, will eventually send a strong message: do the crime and we’ll ensure you do the time. Off course, realistically this isn’t going to happen overnight; it’s a plan for the long term security of the country.
President Zuma was quoted, during a speech on Tuesday to police station commanders, as saying:
We have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa. We must therefore apply extraordinary measures.
Yes, Mr. President we do have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa, but until you also acknowledge that we have an even more abnormal police problem in this country, you or your shoot-to-kill cops are not going to wrest back control from the criminals. I sincerely hope that you issue some pen, paper and a few training courses with those extra bullets that you will be distributing.