The Democratic Alliance (DA) will table a motion of public importance for Parliament to debate the urgent need to demilitarise the police in South Africa. The White Paper on Policing and the National Development Plan (NDP) are clear on the need to demilitarise the South African Police Service (SAPS) but the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, continues to ignore this urgent need.
Minister Cele must take full responsibility for the escalation in police abuses during the lockdown period.
During a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police this morning, it was revealed that 32% more cases of police abuse were reported in the past two months than during the same period last year.
That is 200 more complaints ranging from death as a result of police action and discharge of official firearms; to assault and corruption. 50 people have died allegedly as a result of police action and in police custody between the 26 March and 05 May 2020. This follows repeated appeals by the President to not use excessive force when enforcing the lockdown.
Minister Cele deviated from the President’s sentiments almost immediately with utterances that can only be seen as encouraging heavy handed policing.
- Cele suggested that SAPS “push” people home and said that SAPS must deal with criminals “harshly” even going so far as to instruct SAPS: “do not be nice to suspects”.
- The DA has already called for the President to remove the Minister for his comments about the rape of a woman at the hands of a police officer. Cele said, “There is a report that a member of the police raped a woman during the lockdown. This is untrue. It was the woman’s husband, who happens to be a police officer, who raped her. We don’t go out and report that a pilot raped someone, or a taxi driver raped someone, why should it be any different now?”
- On Sunday the 12th of April Cele said: “…law enforcement will come down harder on shebeens that continue to supply alcohol during the lockdown.” He says not only will liquor be confiscated and people arrested, but officers will also destroy the infrastructure.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently raised concerns about the use of excessive force in South Africa citing a “toxic lockdown culture”.
Increasingly heavy-handed policing cannot become the new normal in South Africa and Parliament must take urgent steps in this regard.
The DA encourages the public to continue to make use of its WhatsApp number and e-mail platforms to report acts of violence by law enforcement officers.
Anyone who wants to report incidents of abuse by law enforcement officers can WhatsApp the DA on 067 977 9324 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.