Police “Shoot to Kill” in Post-Apartheid South Africa

By Tshepo Ntokoane, Founder of the Andries Tatane Foundation
Bloemfontein, Free State Province, South Africa

During the apartheid regime, we firmly condemned the naked police brutality of the Sharpeville Massacre, the Langa Massacre and many other incidents of this nature. Today, decades after ‘freedom’, we give ourselves a round of applause and congratulate the inhuman acts of brutality by police. Cases such as the Marikana “Massacre” are referred to as “responsible policing.”

What happened to ubuntu? What happened to batho pele (people first)? Is it the truth or what we can prove in court that matters now? Where have we placed our people’s dignity in the rankings? Last?

The late Prof. Chinua Achebe once said “We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own.” Where do recent patterns of police brutality place us in as far as ubuntu or humanity is concerned?

No one deserves to die like Tatane, Mido and the miners of Marikana. We all have the right of dignity.

Reducing police training from 2 years to 1 year; hiring anybody, even those with no passion to protect our communities because we want to create employment; employing (in senior positions) individuals without experience in policing is the reason South Africa is faced with this crisis today. It puzzles me that government refuses to set up a commission of inquiry into police conduct even though stats show 1 722 cases and 720 deaths related to police brutality reported to the IPID in 2011/2012.

The ideology behind the police actions in this country remains “shoot to kill” in a democratic country; similar to "skop, skiet en donder" during the Aparthied regime.

Steve Biko once rephrased to Aimé Césaire and said: “When I turn on my radio, when I hear that someone in the Pondoland forest was beaten and tortured, I say that we have been lied to: Hitler is not dead,” Perhaps I should add: “When I switch on my television and see someone being assaulted, dragged behind the police van, getting shot for protesting against service delivery, I say that we have been lied to: Piet Botha and James Kruger are not dead.” I ask myself, is this what democracy is all about? Is this what the freedom fighters died for?”

“Give black people guns. They will go and kill each other and murder cases among blacks should bear very little punishment in order to encourage them.” that’s what P.W Botha said. Andries Tatane and many other cases not published on the media confirm this statement.

What happened to the truth if the accused are found not guilty in the murder case of Tatane? They were recorded live, brutally assaulting and deadly shooting him in the chest with one shot but two rubber bullets, one bullet which was reported to have gone to his heart and the other one to his lung. Not Guilty?

If we as the people are silent, if we are not going to testify as witnesses in court as was the case in Tatane’s, then police brutality will never end. We will continue to chant ‘rainbow nation’ while our people die like insects.

If we let this go on without punishment, history will repeat itself, strangers will become brothers, they will fight fire stone like the youth of ’76. They will no longer sing ‘kill the boer, kill the farmer’ but ‘kill the police, kill the enemy.’ They will sing with their last breaths and then we will want to listen;
‘wa thinta thina, wa thint’abangazokufa, safa sa phenduka, sa phenduk’ inj’ebovu… wanyakaz’umkhonto we nkonyane kaNdaba.”

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