Mothutlung: Cops used dangerous discontinued ammo

2014-01-24 16:23

A preliminary investigation by the police into the deaths of the four protesters during a protest over water in Mothutlung, North West, found that police had broken police protocols when trying to disperse the crowd. They had fired 185 rounds of ammunition and also used ammunition that was discontinued in 2006 because it was identified as dangerous.

A total of 14 police officers are now being investigated for murder and attempted murder and have been suspended or face suspension in connection with the alleged killing of the four Mothutlung residents.

This was announced today by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, who said allegations of police involvement in the deaths were being investigated on two fronts.

Mthethwa said at a press briefing in Pretoria that the police officers had used “disproportional” force during the water protests when attempting to disperse protesters.

“The members did not comply with some of the core internal operational prescripts insofar as they relate to public order policing,” said Mthethwa.

“Six of the SAPS members are already suspended, others are being served with their suspension notices,” said Mthethwa. He added that the investigation would take two months to conclude.

Mthethwa and Phiyega defended police management and said the officers in question were well trained and had been with the public order policing unit for years.

Mthethwa said individual police officers involved in such incidents should take responsibility for unlawful acts committed even when on duty.

The deaths are also being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, he said.

Some of the police officers have allegedly been nabbed for not reporting one of the shootings.

He reiterated that there was no “prevalent culture of impunity within the police service” and appealed to the public to continue to work with police in the fight against crime.

“We are a caring government and therefore there is no carte blanche that we give to our officers to kill innocent people who protest,” said Mthethwa.

He admitted that the police officers involved in the deaths were also deployed at Marikana, but denied that they were present on the day of the shooting where 34 mine workers died on August 16 2012.

Read: Marikana cops in Brits shoot-out

Mthethwa expressed shock at the deaths and said police were trained well enough to ensure that nobody died when dealing with public protests.

“Strictly speaking, nobody should die, even with the use of rubber bullets. Police are trained for these protests. The members we’re talking about are public order policing. They’re trained. You can’t blame SAPS management,” said Mthethwa.

Asked whether there was a breakdown of trust between the public and police as a result of the number of deaths at the hands of the men and women in blue, Mthethwa said what shocked him the most was that of the 13 000 crowd-related protests last year, 1 882 protests were violent which, in his view, was abnormal.

He also questioned why members of the public were not following the law to ensure that they applied to protest legally because this was a right guaranteed in the Constitution.

Police top brass used the briefing to appeal to striking mine workers in North West’s platinum belt not to carry dangerous weapons at public gatherings as this was against the law.

Mthethwa specifically said he had personally warned leaders of the Association for Mineworkers and Construction Union not to allow their members in Marikana to carry dangerous weapons when on strike as they would face the “full might of the law”.

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