A full minute of death

2012-08-20 18:31

This was meant to be a happy, celebratory time.

All the good stuff had been lined up for it. Durban is bliss city. Winter she is very much gone and spring has very much sprung.

Slops and shorts have been dragged out of the cupboard and beer bellies are being exposed to the sun.

It gets better. After an eternity of waiting, seemingly decades of convincing myself I’m enjoying pre-season games, internationals and other placebos, big football is back. The two most amazing football leagues on the planet, the Spanish and yes, I admit it, the Ingerlish, are on, with some tasty opening day encounters lined up for the starving punter. After all that making-do it’s time to see the world’s finest exponents of the game doing what they do best in well-drilled, highly professional, madly talented teams going for it every weekend. The humblest Durban dive needs only a dish and a fridge of icy dark nutrients and Harper is a happy boy from 1pm to 1am.

But then the Filth went and mowed down 34 admittedly armed and maddened strikers in front of the entire world on Thursday afternoon, just as the Proteas’ tail were digging in and showing some serious guts after an awful bloody start against the Ingerlish.

Ok I’ve never been a fan of the cops. I was born in Belfast where a militarised police force with no respect for human rights was the daily bread. I grew up here, where the police were the enemy of the majority of the people. After 1994 there was a move towards de-militarising the police, which I dug, lots. But that all went out the window under the current administration.

What went down on Thursday wasn’t police action. Yes, the strikers were totally out of hand, yes, they had killed people, police officers included. That was totally wrong. People need to go to jail for that. Yes, they had to be dispersed, but the concentrated, absolutely deadly way in which so many policemen simultaneously let rip with fully automatic weapons into the strikers was a lethal military action. Where was the birdshot, the three-second burst over the crowd’s heads? That wasn’t an attempt to subdue, or disperse or incapacitate. That what a full minute of death being rained down upon people who were a threat, but who were being slaughtered, not being stopped.

The past couple of years have seen our police service slide back into being a force, with all the brutality and death that comes with it. Marikana was that slide taken to its deadly conclusion.

What happened on Thursday is a lesson that the shoot-to-kill culture, the boot on the neck approach to policing can’t work and needs to be undone and undone quickly. If it isn’t, there’ll be more Marikanas.

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