Johannesburg - Police Minister General Bheki Cele has said the 2012 Marikana massacre had compelled the police to change how violent crowds were managed.
Cele released the Panel of Experts report on Monday, which looked into policing and crowd control with the SAPS. The panel was appointed in 2016 following the findings and recommendations from the Farlam Commission that looked into the 2012 massacre.
Thirty-four miners died when police opened fire on striking Lonmin mineworkers at Wonderkop outside Rustenburg in the North West.
“To date, the SAPS has paid out R176 million in compensation to the families of those killed in the Marikana tragedy; R80m worth of civil claims are yet to be finalised and the process to finalise other categories of compensation is ongoing,” Cele said.
The bulk of the recommendations from the Farlam Commission will be released in due course, as they were incorporated into the SAPS Act Amendment Bill that is being finalised.
“The bill gives the assurance that no automatic rifles may be used in crowd control,” Cele said.
The minister said the SAPS Public Order Policing Unit was better resourced than before, with two-way radios, loudhailers, video cameras and PA systems for easy communication.
He said that a total of 6 324 officers had been trained through numerous courses in proper crowd management and were trained to use specialised equipment including the use of water canons and stun grenades.
One of the sharpest criticisms after the massacre was the lack of transparency regarding the events of August 16, 2012. A recommendation that came from the commission was to encourage the video recording of protests and mass gatherings by the police.
“This has now become a standard operating procedure in the SAPS in this regard; hundreds of professional video cameras, external hard drives as well as voice recorders and stills cameras have been secured for this purpose,” Cele said.
He said the recent killing of Mthokosizi Ntumba, 35, cast a spotlight on the use of rubber bullets to control crowds. National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole said police would not stop using rubber bullets.
However, “there are going to be stricter provisions for the police to make use of rubber bullets. We have also taken the input that we need to intensify training so that we become more professional in utilising rubber bullets,” Sithole said.
Cele condemned the killing of police officers and revealed that 12 officers had been killed on and off-duty in the past month.