A member of a hazardous waste clean-up crew walks to clean up a warehouse that was targeted during looting, in Durban, July 17 2021. Picture: REUTERS/ROGAN WARD
A member of a hazardous waste clean-up crew walks to clean up a warehouse that was targeted during looting, in Durban, July 17 2021. Picture: REUTERS/ROGAN WARD

If the SA Human Rights Commission (HRC) inquiry into the incidents in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July, which have been described as “an attempted insurrection”, is to be taken seriously, as it should be, then it is necessary that the relevant recommendations in the report of the Marikana inquiry be dusted off and considered.

There are detailed recommendations (all accepted by the government) that the SA Police Service ought to have taken on board to capacitate its members, improve the performance of public order policing units and avoid “another Marikana”.

The report of the panel of public order policing experts, assembled at great expense for the Marikana inquiry, has direct bearing on the alleged inability of the police on the ground to cope with the events into which the HRC is inquiring. The report is, practically speaking, a manual for the improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of crowd control by the police.

The Marikana commission required that particular attention be paid “to the lacunae in the standing orders and prescripts and identify, revise and amend the relevant protocols with clearly defined roles for each tactical unit … to enable urgent attention to be directed to these recommendations”.

The HRC inquiry can determine whether implementation has taken place, and if not, why not. Details of what has been done to implement change to improve policing need to be considered to determine the reasons for the failure of the police to contain the loss of life, looting, violence and destruction of property.

It is already well known that the Marikana commission recommendation that the police service be demilitarised (also urgently recommended in the National Development Plan) has been blithely ignored by the police and those in authority over them.

Whether the same situation pertains to the recommendations on public order policing is for the HRC panel to determine.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now

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