Retired judge Ian Farlam (left) with the Institute for Security Studies' Gareth Newham. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Pretoria –The Marikana massacre -- in which at least 44 people including protesting Lonmin mineworkers, police officers, and security officials were killed in Rustenburg, in August 2012 -- should have been a turning point for policing in South Africa but even after that bloodbath, law enforcement continues to deteriorate, the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) Gareth Newham said on Wednesday.

“We are currently at a crossroads when it comes to policing in South Africa. Since the ill-conceived appointment by [former president] Jacob Zuma of the disastrous Riah Phiyega as [SA Police Service] SAPS commissioner in 2012, police performance has declined notably," Newham said at an ISS seminar probing the police's conduct at, and after, the 2012 shootings.

"Crime intelligence fell into disarray, detection rates for serious crimes have declined, and violent crimes such as murder and robbery have escalated substantially... Civil claims paid out by police due to evidence of misconduct on the part of officers have skyrocketed 778 percent in the last decade, and the biggest portion of that includes since 2012. Of course, measurable levels of public approval for the police have declined generally since 2011/2012.”

Newham, who heads the ISS justice and violence prevention unit, said the 2012 incident called for deeper structural reforms in the SAPS, which would have left South Africa with a different form and improve police service.

“Marikana should have been a wake-up call. It could have been a trigger for the deep structural reforms necessary at improving police transparency and accountability which are vital to grow public trust. Had this happened, we would have seen a very different policing agency today, and we would have far greater support for the men and women who face the difficult task of policing our streets every day,” said Newham.

“Rather, the then-minister of police Nathi Mthethwa and police commissioner Riah Phiyega decided to try and defend the indefensible. Shortly after the massacre, Phiyega described the worst policing disaster since the Soweto uprising, under apartheid in 1976, as ‘the best of responsible policing’. It emerged during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that the sinister decision to go tactical on the striking mineworkers was made a day before, at a meeting held in Gauteng.”

The seminar was attended by different panellists including retired judge Ian Farlam who chaired the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Nomzamo Zondo – director for litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute which represents the families of the deceased mineworkers and independent researcher David Bruce.

Different units of the SAPS opened fire while trying to disperse a group of protesting mineworkers encamped on a hill in Nkaneng informal settlement. Thirty-four mineworkers were shot by the police on 16 August 2012, with a further 78 wounded and 275 were arrested. The workers had been carrying knobkerries, pangas, sticks, and iron rods.

Ten people, including six mineworkers, two Lonmin security officers and two policemen, were killed in days leading up to the August 16 massacre.

Workers at the mine went on strike on August 10, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500.

African News Agency (ANA)