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SA: Protesters, strikers, the police and how our politicians respond

24 January 2014, 14:53

The death of 4 protestors, outside of Brits, last week and another one yesterday, in Roodepoort, has once again put the spot light on police action during these protests. Add to this the Marikana massacre and the call by Dali Mpofu to charges 60 senior police officials with murder as a result of the Marikana incident. Mpofu’s reason is: “The police did not warn the strikers that they were going to shoot at them.”

Everyone and his brother, including all our country’s politicians are calling for investigation upon investigation into the action of the police. The police, according to all and sundry, are in the wrong. How can they use such force in dealing with protests and strikes.

Let’s take a step back and look at it from another angle. The week before the Marikana massacre 10 people were killed as a result of the strike. This included 2 police officers being hacked to death with pangas. Wonder if they were given any warning? To this day i have not heard of one politician that attended a memorial service for those 10 people or that called for an investigation into those killings.

Last week it was reported that 4 people died on the N1 due to protestors rocks hitting a vehicle. It was short report in a newspaper and if memory serves there was one mention on radio news. Again no politician or public member has voiced any outcry over these 4 people. No memorial service. No call for an investigation.

According to reports 4 cops have been arrested for the killing of the protestor in Roodepoort yesterday. Initial reports are that the cop that fire the shot was driving through the area in an unmarked car. Protestors stopped his vehicle and started rocking it. He fire warning shots and one of the shots hit the man.

My problem is not with people protesting for basic rights and needs. My problem is when these protests turns violent and starts to get out of control. Police are then to keep the peace and calm while bing under threat of their own lives, yet they are not allowed to use force.

Maybe it is time that the politicians and people like Mr Mpofu go and stand in front of these protestors and strikers without any police protection or bodyguards and tell them to stop. I can tell you if 5 000 strikers armed with pangas and spears charge at you and shots are fired from that very group, you will not even think about warning shots or the like. You will react in the manner that will save and protect you.

Our politicians, both the ruling party and the opposition, are sending a message to protestors and strikers and it is not the right message. The messages reads: “It is in order for you to use violence to get what you want. If action is taken against you we will have that action investigated. We will call for those taking the action to be charged.”

If senior police officers are to be charged for the action of the men they lead, why then not charge union leaders and community leaders for the actions of those that they lead? These leaders use the same excuse every time. It was not our members but a criminal element that exploited the situation or it is rouge elements within the group that is responsible.

The one thing that i still don’t understand is why people will keep on voting for the same people only to protest about and against these people a couple of months later. They voice there frustration and unhappiness with the ruling party. Come the 2014 elections, these people will however vote for that party again. What do they think will change?

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