“Shoot to kill” fiasco just gets worse

About two weeks ago I posted a blog, deploring the South African President’s support for amendments to the law which would give police officers the right to shoot to kill. In that time, an innocent young women has become the unfortunate victim of this insane policy proposal, while two other innocent citizens were injured in the same incident.

Earlier this week, police officers shot at a vehicle suspected of being hijacked, killing the young women and injuring two others who were all passengers in the car. And just to highlight the incompetence of the seven police officers involved, the driver of the car, an Air Force pilot who was the only one to exit when it stopped, was also the only one who was not shot. He later claimed that the police opened fire indiscriminately and without provocation.

Considering the unbelievably stupid shoot-to-kill remarks made by senior police chiefs, politicians and even the President, to (poorly trained) police officers, only two weeks earlier, this incident was bound to happen. Earlier this year, the Deputy Safety and Security Minister, Susan Shabangu was reported as saying: “You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or the community. You must not worry about the regulations. That is my responsibility. Your responsibility is to serve and protect.” If the Deputy Minister does not understand the concept of serving and protecting, what hope is there for ordinary police officers, weaned on serving the former apartheid state against the majority of citizens.

The police officers who were involved in the shooting can claim that it was as a result of the mixed messages that they received from their bosses, but unfortunately (and rightly so) will have to face the full brunt of the law for their actions. As usual, the politicians will literally get away with murder.

But wait; it gets worse. Yesterday the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa not only claimed that the shoot-t0-kill stance was a fabrication by the press, he proclaimed that laws concerning the  police’s right to enter  private premises would be changed, to apparently, wait for it…. save lives. The Minister was quoted as saying:

There is a lot of woman and children abuse and we can’t seek permission from abusers to enter their houses.

If the police cannot competently identify a model of car (as in the shooting incident described earlier), how can we trust them to identify an abuser, and not barge into the wrong house shooting wildly at innocent people?

Are politicians that thick that they do not learn from the mistakes of their idiot peers? The draconian measures instituted by George Bush against the citizens of the USA to curb their constitutional freedoms, in response to the 9/11 disaster is still very much in the periphery of political and social discourse. Can our public representatives not see the danger of a repeat here, or are their objectives more sinister? Are South Africans, with a history of abuse of rights and freedoms, prepared to allow our politicians to drag us back into the past?

Personally, I need the assurance that my home will remain inviolate; free from the clutches of grubby politicians and the threat of invasion by incompetent police officers. Any attempts to diminish our freedoms must be resisted.

South African Police should be taught to serve and protect, “not shoot to kill”

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.