Friday, August 24, 2012

Apartheid cop: How we would have handled Marikana-

24 AUG 2012 08:17 - FAEEZA BALLIM, PHILLIP DE WET In apartheid SA, a situation like that in Marikana would have gone down very differently, according to an unreconstructed commander of the riot squad. SPECIAL FOCUS Lonmin: Platinum mines in chaos OUR COVERAGE Activists decry talk of 'third force' at Marikana Marikana is the latest chapter in a long saga Marikana: Malema sparks chaos at memorial service Questions and confusion remain at Marikana He declined to be named for fear of jeopardising his pension. "If you had a big group like that with weapons, you don't go and mess with them," he said. "You look at where they are, then you say to the leaders: 'This is where the line is. If you go over that line, we shoot you.'" In such a scenario, he said, "you may have to pop one or two" with snipers if anyone disregarded shots fired into the ground at their feet, but, he claimed, there would be zero risk to the police and fewer protesters put in danger. Analysts who monitor violent clashes said during South Africa's transition period the public order police would have been on top of such a situation, focusing on intelligence from inside the group, constantly negotiating without imposing conditions or deadlines and intervening only if another group or the public were in danger. In that case – with intelligence on intention and numbers – such intervention would have been by non-lethal means, they said, and might have included using church or traditional leaders, even wives, to talk protesters down. But at Marikana, with a few hundred ill-equipped police facing a large crowd, 34 protesters were mowed down and even though national police commissioner Riah Phiyega has implied those deaths were unavoidable, few agree. Deferring responsibility "From a policing perspective and speaking to people in public order policing, that should never have happened," said Monique Marks, a University of KwaZulu-Natal professor and sociology expert who for years has warned that swift and major changes are needed in the way the police handle crowds. "When you see all the high-level operational commanders deferring responsibility from one to the other, that means something has gone ­terribly wrong." Experts point out a number of things that probably went wrong, but in the absence of detailed information, which the police are not providing, they can only speculate. An important aspect is the deaths of two police members on August 13, three days before the mass shooting on August 16 and the reaction, or lack thereof, from the police. With an average of about 100 police deaths a year, said Institute of Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger, "every day is a question of survival. You cannot blame them for being on edge." South African Police Union president Mpho Kwinika said police members felt threatened and often did not consider themselves adequately backed when they used deadly force or maimed members of the public, even when fully justified in doing so. Too often, members in such a situation are left to fend for themselves in the courts without the legal backing of their employer. There are also structural problems in the way public order policing is being handled and the blame for that can be laid squarely at the door of politicians. Among the problems experts identify are: Poor command and control structures in the field when dealing with hundreds of police operatives from different units; Poorly trained police members, who panic in the face of an attack, or a perceived attack; A shortage of protective gear such as shields and body armour, which means deadly force must be used sooner rather than later; A lack of backup with crowd control weapons such as water cannons or long-distance teargas dispensers; An overly complicated tactical approach, which requires a level of co-ordination that is hard to achieve outside a tactics classroom; Police badly outnumbered by the crowd they intend to control; and A lack of intelligence and crowd infiltration. Warnings about such shortcomings in crowd control have been made loudly and often in the decade since public orer policing was deprioritised. With the militarisation of the police came the rise of units trained and equipped to battle large, well-armed gangs – units that are now regularly used in crowd situations. But Marikana also held some unique challenges outside the control of police commanders or the politicians who decide on their budgets. These include: Strikers gathered in the open, away from the built structures that would normally make it easier to contain them; The use of muti and rituals, which made some strikers consider themselves invincible, and police, more used to dealing with urban strikers, unsure of how to deal with the crowd; and Confusion about union representation, which made negotiations with the group difficult and the results unpredictable. Even so, there is some hope that the political firestorm unleashed by Marikana will result in greater ­attention being given to police crowd control to prevent a recurrence. "This is definitely going to raise a whole lot of questioning in government circles and there will be some serious thinking about how we organise public order policing from here," said Marks. "Even if it's a little bit late." - MAIL & GUARDIAN - COMMENTS BY SONNY - Any inexperienced "WANNABEE" who remains anonymous, can call the shots after an incident! It is easy to "analyse a post mortem" after it has happened. Yes, there will be an outcry from the Global Powers. Yes, heads should roll. A dirty 'political finger' is detected in this 'bloodbath!' YES, THE WORLD AT LARGE SHOULD BE INFORMED A.S.A.P. AS TO "WHAT WENT WRONG!" - Marikana: Disastrous crowd control led to mayhem 24 AUG 2012 07:41 - DAVID BRUCE The events at Marikana were not only a human tragedy, but also a disaster for policing in SA, one that will leave a stain on the image of the SAPS. SPECIAL FOCUS Lonmin: Platinum mines in chaos OUR COVERAGE Marikana massacre illustrates need for development plan Malema coterie, Zuma team to square off at Lonmin memorial Marikana: Govt won't talk, it's mourning Zuma on Lonmin: Government didn't plan to kill anyone In all, more than 100 people were killed or injured by police gunfire. Were these actions consistent with the principle of minimum force as embodied in South African law, which is supposed to guide the police in a democracy? It should be acknowledged that the events escalated into tragedy amid a complex and unprecedented situation. The police cannot be held responsible for the unfolding of the conflict and the breakdown of attempts to resolve it over the preceding weeks. But it is always the job of the police to step in where other mechanisms have failed and these are frequently difficult circumstances. The scrutiny to which the police are subjected should ensure that events of this kind are not repeated. According to police statements, a concerted effort was made to engage in dialogue with the crowd of strikers over preceding days. These efforts had failed. By midday on Thursday, the police said: "We had received information from various sources that the protesters would not end the strike peacefully and they would not leave their gathering point or disarm." The police then decided to change tactics. They erected a barbed-wire barrier "to protect their members adjacent to the protesters" and decided to "disperse the protesters from their stronghold into smaller groups, which would be more manageable to disarm". A key question is: What were the police's priorities at this point? Their statement indicates they had a dual agenda – not simply to disperse the crowd, but also to disarm its members. They do not seem to have had a clear strategy on how to accomplish this without escalating the potential for bloody confrontation. Building trust and confidence A further question concerns police communication with the crowd. A guiding principle of crowd control is the need to optimise communication with demonstrators about the intentions behind police actions to minimise the potential for panic. Where possible, the police should seek to build trust and confidence between themselves and the crowd. And when crowds are to be dispersed, avenues of exit should be announced in advance. In Marikana, however, the police did not, in fact, appear to want the members of the crowd to escape, because they wished to disarm them. Did the police anticipate how the crowd would respond to efforts to disperse it? Furthermore, once the police had decided on a change of tactics, what effort was made to communicate this to the crowd? It seems that the police tried to negotiate with the crowd earlier, but it is not clear that they continued to communicate with the miners about their intentions at this later stage. It appears that the decision to erect a barbed-wire barrier was a key moment, one that escalated anxiety among the crowd. Rather than being given avenues of escape, the crowd may have believed that it was a prelude to people being encircled and attacked. Whatever other plans the police may have had to disperse and disarm the protesters proved to be irrelevant. A group, said by some to have numbered 1000 miners, descended from the koppie where the miners were entrenched and rounded the end of the barrier. The police said the miners stormed towards them. Were the miners, in fact, directly attacking the police? Available accounts suggest that some of the miners indeed intended to attack the police. They were certainly armed and police personnel had been killed earlier that week. Other statements, however, have contested this. It is not clear whether there was unanimity among the crowd about attacking. Many of the miners may have been trying to escape but were channelled towards the line of armed police by the Nyala vehicles. It seems that one miner fired at the police before the final police fusillade, but was this in response to the police's rubber bullets? Did the rubber bullets propel the miners into racing towards the police line? Offensive measures Perhaps the most important question is about the basic doctrine that guided police actions. By occupying the koppie, the miners were not doing any harm. Why was it decided to disperse them, considering that standing orders emphasise that "the use of force must be avoided at all costs" and "offensive measures" must be used only "if negotiations fail and life or property is in danger"? Should a different approach not have been taken in terms of the requirement that the "purpose of offensive action" should be to "de-escalate conflict"? Was it not apparent that there was massive potential for violence? Informing the police decision to disarm and disperse the strikers may have been the knowledge that they, the police, had the capacity to determine the outcome of any confrontation through superior firepower and it was acceptable to deal with the situation in this way, if necessary. This capacity to unleash concentrated firepower has been developed by the police to respond to cash-in-transit gangs armed with automatic weapons. Along with the capacity to deploy firepower of this kind, the government and the police have adopted the doctrine of "maximum force", although this concept should be anathema to policing in a democracy. Was Marikana therefore just a story of police officers under attack from a group of miners, some of whom were deceived into believing that muti rendered them immune to harm from police guns? Or was it also about a group of protesting miners desperate to escape a perceived trap, who came face to face with concentrated police fire guided by a doctrine of maximum force? If the commission of inquiry into Marikana is to make sense not just of the range of labour issues that led to the event, but also of the complexities of its horrifying conclusion, these are among the questions on which it will have to shed light. - MAIL & GUARDIAN

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