Police bought pepper spray before tragedy

2012-09-03 10:09
(File, Sapa)

(File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The police authorised the purchase of nearly 90 000 cans of non-lethal pepper spray the day before the Marikana shootings, The Star reported on Monday.

Less than three weeks after the shootings the police were buying pepper spray, riot shields and basic legal textbooks.

According to the report the list consisted of 87 905 cans of pepper spray which is a year's supply, 61 000 pouches for the pepper spray, 1 953 riot shields and 2 500 copies of Applied Law for Police Officials.

The shootings on August 16, in which police opened fire on striking workers gathered on a hill near Lonmin's Marikana mine, in the North West, killing 34 of them and wounding 78, highlighted the need for non-lethal options for controlling and dispersing armed and angry crowds.

The pepper spray specifications were revised in April this year and signed off by a brigadier on August 15.

"The pepper spray must be non-flammable, ozone-friendly and of food grade," state the specifications.
"No permanent harm shall be caused by the contents under normal use."

At Marikana, police used lethal weapons, contrary to standing orders on dealings with crowds, which emphasise the need for negotiations, forbid the use of guns and sharp ammunition, and allow rubber bullets only in "extreme circumstances". Common-law principles of self-defence are not affected by those orders.

Police have declined to comment on anything related to Marikana.

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