Calls for release of report on Policing and Crowd Management get louder

SERi says that keeping the report away from the public allows for continued police impunity. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

Two years after the report by the Panel of Experts on Policing and Crowd Management was completed, it has yet to be released to the public.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) is calling for the release of the report by the Panel of Experts on Policing and Crowd Management which was completed in 2018. The report came as a result of the recommendations of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that a panel of experts be set up to revise and amend public order policing policies.

The reason for the delay, according to SERI – which represents 36 families – is the lack of political will from the government. Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s executive director, says that the report would be a way of ensuring that the massacre of 16 August 2012 does not recur. “The panel was appointed for the purpose of investigating what crowd-management measures constitute best practice in order to ensure that what happened at Marikana would not be repeated,” she said.

Zondo says that the continued use of excessive force by the police could be curbed if the report is made available for the public to debate if its recommendations have been implemented. “The panel provided over 100 recommendations and so without the release of that report, there is no indication that any of the lessons from Marikana have been learnt and implemented. This is evidenced by the continued brutality displayed by the police and a penchant for excessive uses of force,” Zondo said.

She reiterated the importance of the report’s release on Tuesday during a webinar organised by the Institute for Security Studies on the lessons learnt from the Marikana massacre, in which Judge Ian Farlam, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry chairperson, was a co-panelist.

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One of the 18 experts on the panel tasked to investigate public order policing in South Africa, and the use of weaponry by security forces during protests, Gareth Newham, said that the 460-page report made strategic, legislative and even tactical recommendations. “We also looked at how to prevent political interference and it was a product of consensus of the panel. It is unfortunate that people can’t discuss what is contained in the report because it is of public interest,” said Newham, a civil society representative on the panel. He and other experts have written to the police minister and Parliament Portfolio Committee on Police to push for the release of the report.

Because the report has not been released for public debate, Zondo believes the police continue to use force during protests and strikes indiscriminately. “The police believe that they can use force they deem necessary. During #FeesMustFall there were cases of the police instead of providing first aid to the students who were shot by rubber bullets, were instead shooting at those who were providing first aid to the injured students,” she said.

The People’s Coalition, a civil society body, has also called for the release of the report and for the police to restrain the use of force.

Scene 2 of the Marikana Massacre

During the webinar, Ian Farlam said that there was not enough evidence that an order was given to fire at scene 2. The problem according to Farlam was that there were different groups of units that converged at scene 2. Scene 2 refers to the scene away from the television cameras where, according to Khusela Dyantyi from SERI, 15 miners were shot and killed with two miners dying at the hospital days later.

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“We have taken up the case of scene 2 with the Independent Police Investigating Unit in which they said they would have to reconstruct the whole scene. One wonders if they would still be able to do it 8 years later and that the families would ever get justice,” said Dyantyi during another webinar on Marikana that was organised by the South African Federation of Trade Unions recently.

According to Dyantyi, no one has ever been prosecuted for the deaths of the 16th of August which saw 34 miners dying at the hands of the police live on television. The state, he said, settled for a civil claim of compensation for the families but does not want to pay for constitutional damages which include trauma and making the wives of the mineworkers widows and their children orphans.

In August 2012, Elitsha produced a radio podcast on the massacre in which Professor Peter Alexander from the University of Johannesburg spoke about the research that they did on scene 2 that revealed a pre-meditated murder.

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