Presidency, ministry brush off call to wield axe

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kasrils marhc 4 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Ronnie Kasrils. File photo: Neil Baynes

Pretoria - Calls for the heads of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and commissioner Riah Phiyega after the death of Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia and other incidents of police brutality have been batted away by the Presidency and police ministry.

Responding to former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils’s remark that resignations or suspensions of police bosses would have followed the grisly death of Macia in any “civilised democratic society”, Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said Kasrils was “entitled to express his views, however much one may disagree with them. But I don’t wish to comment on that”.

Cellphone footage of Macia being dragged behind a police van in Daveyton last week went viral on the internet and sparked international outrage. He later died of his injuries.

Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said Kasrils’s call was opportunistic and the minister had “spearheaded the call to punish any cop who shames this organisation”.

“We’ve empowered legislatively and through resource allocation those who police the police, that is the Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate), to ensure that we tackle this challenge head on.”

He said fighting crime was a collective effort and those “whose duty has become to bark unfair criticism must not obstruct those of us who are tackling these challenges”.

Kasrils said in his letter to Independent Newspapers that he had warned of increasing police brutality and “the sinister growth of security powers” when he left the government four years ago.

“I did not anticipate that along with so many ordinary citizens I would witness in a democratic South Africa abominations such as the police killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane, the Marikana massacre of striking mineworkers, the shooting of protesting farm labourers in the Western Cape winelands, and now this bloodcurdling imagery of a taxi driver being dragged to his death behind a police van,” Kasrils wrote.

It was up to the government, ruling party, opposition and civil society to “ensure the menacing culture of police brutality, so reminiscent of the apartheid and colonial eras, be transformed into an ethos compatible with the compassionate values we fought and sacrificed for”.

The DA said it would call for a parliamentary debate after writing to President Jacob Zuma calling for a judicial commission of inquiry.

The party’s police spokeswoman, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said it was “unconscionable that thus far nothing has been done to address the systemic nature of police brutality”.

“In 2011/12, the Ipid received 4 923 complaints in relation to SAPS members. Of these, 720 were deaths, 88 domestic violence cases, 2 320 allegations of criminal offences and 1 795 misconduct cases.”

She said an inquiry should focus on the root causes of the problem, the actions of senior leaders within and outside the police which might or might not have encouraged the “culture of police brutality”, and what could be done to eradicate it.

“The causes must be uncovered and solutions found and implemented before more lives are lost.”

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