Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union-affiliated workers strike at Marikana. Picture: SOWETAN
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union-affiliated workers strike at Marikana. Picture: SOWETAN

Five years after Marikana‚ the police are still struggling to tick off items on the to-do list of recommendations made by the Farlam Commission to overhaul the way crowds and protests are managed and policed.

The commission made a long list of recommendations to ensure police were properly trained and managed in instances of public violence so the mistakes made at Marikana were never repeated.

The panel of experts set up to investigate and overhaul public-order policing and the transformation task team appeared before the police portfolio committee on Tuesday during which MPs expressed concern about the long period of time it has taken to implement the commission’s recommendations.

Chairperson Francois Beukman questioned why "quick wins" such as first-aid training for all officers were not made a priority. "The biggest concern is the time lapse‚" he said. The commission recommended that all police officers be trained in basic first aid, but Deputy National Police Commissioner for Human Resource Management Bonang Mgwenya told the committee that "first-aid training is informed by the budget".

Only 270 officers are set to be trained in first-aid levels one and two in the current financial year and less than 1‚000 were trained in first-aid levels one to three in the previous year. Mgwenya admitted that 270 was "not enough" but said the number did not include new recruits who underwent first-aid training as part of their basic training.

Mgwenya said the unit had grown to 5‚343 officers‚ after 1‚258 new posts were granted and filled last year.

Public-order policing also needs equipment and resources worth more than R200m, including 25 second-generation Nyala riot vehicles, valued at R3m each; 14 prisoner trucks; body protection gear for officers; wire trailers; megaphones; video cameras; and two-way radios.

Not listed on the inventory of resources were police body cameras‚ which DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard questioned. Deputy National Police Commissioner Gary Kruser told the committee that the issue of body cameras was being considered by the expert panel appointed to look into reforming public-order policing, but that evidence had showed "some countries using them have picked up problems".

Eldred de Klerk, who made a presentation on behalf of the panel of experts, said the use of the cameras would require a vast system to deal with all the video data produced‚ and to store and sort it for use in training‚ or in prosecutions.

De Klerk told the committee "under general customary rules‚ the core legal consequences of every national and international act are a duty to cease the violation and ensure it doesn’t happen again [and] to repair the damage caused". One of these‚ he said was the "determination and settling of compensation claims". The panel was specifically tasked with this and were monitoring progress.

Lieutenant-General Sally Kahn told the committee that 31 loss-of-support claims had been submitted to actuaries‚ and one family had been paid out R3.9m.

Offers of between R20‚000 and R50‚000 had been made to the 275 plaintiffs‚ who were claiming wrongful arrest‚ but these had been rejected because of a dispute over the length of the detention period.

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