Jackie Selebi decision key to Marikana – George Fivaz

2013-05-26 06:00

The decision by police top brass to dismantle public-order policing units played a major role in the deaths of 34 mine workers in Marikana, former police commissioner George Fivaz has said.

In an interview with City Press this week, Fivaz, the first commissioner of South Africa’s united police force, who was appointed by former president Nelson Mandela, described the use of the special task force unit to control the unrest as a disaster waiting to happen.

He quickly pointed out that his was not to “criticise” police work in Marikana.

“Police were pushed in that environment without proper intelligence and they were not properly equipped and they were using the wrong people because when Jackie Selebi came, he dismantled the pop (public-order policing) units.”

Fivaz said a major problem he noticed at the beginning of the Marikana unrest was that “the pop units were not readily available because they were decentralised to stations all over the country”.

Soon after Mandela appointed him to head the amalgamation of the then 11 police agencies, Fivaz, said they spent millions of rands on educating police about the public’s human rights and especially recruiting, training and equipping the different unit members, in particular pop.

“We had the best units here in Gauteng, second to none, best equipped and trained. Psychometric testing was done before those people were taken into pop. They were trained, properly equipped and that was their business, public order policing. How on earth can you have a country where you have so many marches per month without a special unit dealing with public order? I can’t understand it,” said Fivaz, who now runs a multidisciplinary company, George Fivaz Forensic and Risk.

He said he would have sounded the alarms bells had he seen the special task force assembling in Marikana.

“Those poor miners, I could have told them that if you see those black berets, you must run for your lives. Those are task force members and they are trained to use lethal force. That’s the job of a task force member. You use the task force only when you have hostage situations, terrorist activities and highly volatile situations where you have to use lethal force, otherwise you don’t use the task force.

“Now they (police) are running around trying to gather old equipment but they should have maintained those units properly. Those units are absolutely invaluable, you can’t do without them,” said Fivaz.

Fivaz defended police from public attacks saying the men and women in blue will never win the fight against crime without the help of the public.

He said police should not be blamed for the high levels of crime.

“Crime is our problem. If you look at violent crimes a good percentage is being committed among people that know one another.

“Crime is coming out of our households. So what chance does the police service have to combat those types of crimes? The problem lies much deeper with the social fabric of society but it doesn’t mean to say the police can now rest on their laurels and it is somebody else’s problem. It’s also their problem,” said Fivaz.

A collapse in command and control by police management, a lack of understanding of the public’s human rights had led police officers thinking they were their own bosses and losing the respect of the communities they served, said Fivaz.

“When I look around today, I see too many officers who are of the opinion that they are their own boss whose action say: ‘I’m a force by myself, I have authority so bugger you.’

“You see it every day and it’s a dangerous situation because it’s not easy to turn around a situation like that. You have to work very hard from your management side to make sure those people understand very clearly where you are taking them.

“Police are never going to be respected if they are lazy daisy in their day-to-day work. If police don’t know what your human rights are, they are never going to get your respect,” said Fivaz.

Recruitment of police, their training and resources had fallen short over the years with the wrong people recruited to serve in the police service, he said.

Fivaz admitted that crime was not under control in his days when the murder rate was 19 000 per year compared with 16 000 currently, but recruitments into the police left much to be desired.

“In my time, we endeavoured to recruit people we want in the police service. We were dead against a situation of giving people a job. If there was a slight signal that this person is looking for a job, then you turn his application down,” he said.

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