The death of 34 rioting miners killed by police at a Lonmin mine in Marikana South Africa is in stark contrast to the 17 police injured by rioting youths at Amiens in northern France.
The South African police say that their response was in self defense, yet only one officer sustained minor injuries. Video footage reveals a panicked response, with the police firing live rounds at the onrushing crowd. The police in Amiens were armed with non-lethal rubber bullets.
Ultimately, if anyone is held accountable for the deaths, it will probably be the police officers who fired the shots. But this is really an issue of poor preparation and inadequate training exacerbated by bad management. Besides those who fired the bullets, senior government officials are also responsible should be held accountable.
One of the reasons Senegal elections this year were peaceful, disproving predictions ofviolence, is the police’s professional handling of the pre-election demonstrations. This was very different their poor handling of the demonstrations only months earlier, when voters objected to President Wade’s attempt to change the constitution.
The Senegalese police’s interim training paid dividends as they showed discipline and order in the face of clear provocation. Conflict was avoided, resulting in a smooth transition of power.
South Africa deserves better, and that will only start when the people in power start being held accountable for the deaths that they cause.
Zuma announces inquiry into Marikana shooting
Peace organisation blames Zuma, ANC for Marikana killings
Liberté, égalité, fermeté?
Will South Africans’ anger boil over?
The South African police have a tough job. The crime rate it high, and the criminals are violent. Meeting the challenge requires good leadership. A recent article in The Economist revealed how badly that’s being handled:
AT TIMES South Africa’s police force seems rotten to the core—riddled with corruption, crime, dirty tricks, political machinations and even murder. On June 12th General Bheki Cele, the police chief, was “relieved of his duties” by President Jacob Zuma amid allegations of graft and dishonesty. His predecessor, Jackie Selebi, a former head of Interpol, was also fired after being found guilty of corruption and jailed for 15 years. Now the head of the police crime intelligence unit, Richard Mdluli, has been suspended, for a second time, after charges of murder and fraud. He had apparently hoped to get Mr Cele’s job.
Some had expected Mr Mkhwanazi, a respected career officer, to succeed Mr Cele. But during his eight-month stint as acting police chief he apparently proved too independent and outspoken. In an interview last month he declared “war” on the extensive rot he claimed he had found within the police ranks. “I am cleaning out the house and will not stop until all the bad apples, regardless of who they are, are removed, once and for all,” he said. “I will prove that there are people strategically operating like the Mafia and I will deal with these people.”
Just over a month later he finds himself back in his old job as head of the police Special Task Force after the surprise appointment of Riah Phiyega, a businesswoman with no experience of policing, intelligence or security, as the country’s new police chief.
Zapiro, the cartoonist, had the last say: