Probe urged into 36 deaths of suspects shot by police

2009-02-10 00:00

KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas has called for an independent investigation into recent shootings in which police killed suspects wanted for different crimes, warning that such shoot-outs may lead to the death of innocent people.

In her response to questions from The Witness, De Haas said 36 people have been shot dead in shoot-outs with the police since September last year.

“There were 20 deaths reported at the hands of the police in the last four months of 2008 and at least 16 people shot dead between January 22 and February 5, 2009.”

De Haas cited the Durban shooting on January 30 in which eight people were killed by police, one of them reported to have been an innocent jobseeker who was caught in the crossfire.

“The tragic death of Thulani Kunene … is a grim reminder of how easy it is for innocent people to get caught up in shoot-outs.

"To make matters worse, it is not clear whether the public would ever have been told about it had journalists not followed the discrepancies in the police story up themselves.”

De Haas criticised KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Bheki Cele’s earlier statement encouraging police to defend themselves by shooting to kill.

His words, she said, “have created a climate in which the police think it’s quite acceptable to shoot suspects dead if they pose a threat to the police”.

She said this raises the question of whether police make any attempt to persuade suspects to surrender.

De Haas added that the public tend to sympathise with the police because of the high rate of crime in the country.

“There is quite a bit of public sympathy for the police when they shoot people dead, because people are so fed up with crime.

"This is very short-sighted, because shooting suspects [apart from human rights issues] treats the symptom, not the cause, because the whole truth, and the networks involved in crime, remain hidden.

"Shooting of suspects may promote a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat killings, especially if any members of the police have links with the criminal syndicates implicated.”

She said the police should be trained to shoot to disarm suspects, not to kill.

Independent Complaints Directorate spokesman Dikeledi

Phiri confirmed incidents of death by police action are being investigated, but could not say how many people have died in KZN in the current financial year.

De Haas said the solution to fighting crime is preventing illegal gun ownership.

“There are extremely serious problems with SAPS crime intelligence, and it is disgraceful that these problems have not been addressed … ”

SAPS spokeswoman Phindile Radebe said the police are investigating the claims that Kunene was an innocent bystander.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.