Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Police must rethink protest strategy

The country's public order policing units have to revise the way they deal with community protests, as service delivery protests continue to break out ahead of municipal elections next month.

The Institute for Security Studies has been responding to the death of community protestor, Andries Tatane, at Ficksburg in the Free State last week.

Tatane was brutally beaten and was shot at close range with rubber bullets during a protest over crippling water shortages last week. Six policemen are standing trial for the killing.

A spokesperson for the Institute, Gareth Newman, says clashes between police and communities at protests around the country are becoming an all too familiar sight. He says this is possibly because police are failing to remain calm and neutral during protests.

"They are starting to see communities as the enemy, they are not seeing themselves as neutral arbitrators in public protests," he said.

"So, what we saw in Ficksburg recently was a growing tendency for these units to look at protestors as people that need to be subdued, as the enemy that needs to be violently suppressed. That is in line with the way that political leadership in this country is talking about policing. It is no longer a service, there to protect the community - it is now a force to fight the enemy."

Meanwhile, National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele is visiting Tatane's family in Ficksburg today.

By Thrishni Subramoney

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