Johannesburg - “You can run, but you will die tired”, read a sticker on an unmarked police car not far from the bodies of bullet-ridden miners strewn on the ground in Marikana. A picture of a rifle accompanied the words.
It was seen on a white Isuzu bakkie in television news footage showing a group of police officers leaning back against it as they walked backwards, firing constantly at the miners who were allegedly charging at them.
Seconds later, a group of miners could be seen lying dead, their bodies turned and pulled by officers who were searching for weapons.
The sticker was spotted again in Rustenburg recently and, according to the Institute for Security Studies researcher Johan Burger, it is sending out a wrong message - especially at a time when the police service is arguing their case at the Farlam commission of inquiry into the Marikana killings.
“It’s very unprofessional to do something like that. I think whoever is responsible for that vehicle is contradicting the police’s own standing order in terms of maintaining a state vehicle,” he said.
“Clearly someone must be acted against in terms of the police service’s disciplinary code. The message (on the sticker) says something about the occupant of the vehicle.”
Burger said he had seen the message or slogan on the sticker before. “I have seen it before and think it must be something flooding the cyber space. Those police officers must have seen it and see it as appropriate to them,” he said.
“It does, however, psychologically send out a wrong message. ‘Police would love to serve and protect you’ would have sounded much better for a sticker on a police vehicle.”
Burger said the sticker may just “strengthen beliefs that the police are extremely well inclined towards shooting people”.
The Star has established that the vehicle in question is driven by a senior police officer belonging to the tactical response team, who was one of the commanders at what became the Marikana massacre. The unit is based at the North West provincial headquarters in Potchefstroom.
Provincial police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane has expressed shock that such a sticker was on a police-owned vehicle.
“Stickers are not allowed on state vehicles unless permission has been granted because these cars represent the brand of the police service. Personalising any of these vehicles is forbidden.
“We will investigate, establish who drives that vehicle and steps will have to be taken. We’ll have to go back to the policy and take equivalent action against an individual that drives that vehicle.”
This comes amid allegations that police had been trigger-happy when they shot and killed 34 striking miners in Marikana.
Police have claimed self-defence, saying a group of armed miners were charging at them when they opened fire. What had happened on the day and days leading to that fateful day has become the core business of the Farlam commission of inquiry sitting in Rustenburg.