How many South Africans noticed that on the same day, if not nearing the same hour, as South Africa’s National Council of Provinces (unanimously) approved the Criminal Procedure Act amendment bill, the country experienced one of its single bloodiest days of police-action..?
The bill provides guidelines on why- and how force, notably deadly force, may be used by the police.
As the final ‘stamp-of-approval’ echoed through the lofty council building, a largely inebriated mass started psyching itself up on a dusty hill outside Rustenburg, to storm the police who had amassed in an open field below.
The deeply disturbing scene that follows can be seen in graphic detail on the Internet – notably as headline news on all the major global news networks. It shows what appear to be police shooting teargas and/or stun-grenades (I am no expert on such matters so apologies if my assessment is completely wrong) at a crowd that is difficult to see behind the shrubs. Then the camera pans across a view of typical Bushveld vegetation, while in the midst of a sizeable gathering of heavily armed police, with full protective gear. Suddenly in the corner of the screen appears a large mob, in a full charge towards the police, from little more than 25 meters away.
It is impossible to judge where the first shots originated from, but in a bowl of dust and a hail of bullets, bodies are dropping like flies and others are clearly flung backwards from the impact of the bullets of high velocity assault weapons. As the dust settles, a heap of bodies lay on the on the blood-soaked soil, of the Platinum Killing Fields.
While certainly the single bloodiest day to date, it is not the first day of bloodshed the Platinum Killing Fields has witnessed this year, she has in fact seen it from February, when the wildcat strikes at Impala turned deadly.
The Criminal Procedures Act though has been in ‘action’ for much longer – parliament passed the new section (no 49) of the Act in 1998 already. It then found itself in limbo for five years, because the SA Police Service (and others), had problems interpreting it. Then the Supreme Court of Appeal and later the Constitutional Court, in ‘01 and ‘02 respectively ruled on the old section 49 and the guidelines were incorporated into the amendment bill, finally providing legal certainty. Meandering its way through the reams of red-tape, timing its eventual seal of approval, to chillingly coincide with the most vivid demonstration of deadly police force, imaginable...
How does one reconcile such grotesque scenes..? Human life dispensed of, in an instant, in what is a “day’s work” in South Africa (not in any manner conceivable am I trivialising the work of people in uniform – I cannot even begin to imagine doing such a challenging job myself or even being faced with the same situation). But rather – how does it not leave permanent scars on both sides, if not all sides.., on the journalists.., notably, on an entire nation..?
When will South Africa finally wash the blood of its hands..? Such episodes have soaked South African soil with blood for centuries, for instance (but not exclusively) when the Dutch met the British, when the Zulu met the Ndwandwe, when Dingane met Piet Retief, it happened under the National Party and now it is happening under the ANC – South Africa is a bloodthirsty place, have been and still is today, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
Not even an event that mesmerized the entire world could change South Africa (viz 1994). You have to ask yourself – then what will..? Is such a beautiful land, as South Africa is, burdened with the ugliest curse imaginable..? Will South Africa suffer the blight of grotesque bereavement forever..? Is it an absolute coincidence that deadly force was approved on the very same day as it delivered such a vivid demonstration..?
This is not a script with answers or much vaunted solutions. It does not seek to reveal the truth about the ‘force’ behind all of this – union fat-cats with their mind-boggling salaries, the greed-filled hyenas who want to get their hands on the loot (of various sorts) as a consequence of nationalizing the mines (not that it would resolve anything in this case – note: it was a confrontation between the state and the people)...
It is a script that says: remember 16 August 2012, as it could become more of a juncture in the history of South Africa, than people may imagine at the moment.
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