‘War’ guns worry

2011-08-17 00:00

FIREARMS used by warring factions during the political violence and faction fights in KwaZulu-Natal in the recent past could be the ones that are now being used to kill police in the province.

The MEC for Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, said this in Durban yesterday as KwaZulu-Natal became the first province to hold a provincial summit on police killings following a national summit last month.

Mchunu said the province has a history of political violence and faction fights in which firearms were used, and to date those firearms have not been recovered.

He announced that a programme to curb police killings, dubbed “people’s action against police killings”, will be launched in all 11 KZN district municipalities.

The summit sought to solicit feedback and input from various stakeholders — including civic organisations and academic institutions — on the killing of police officers.

About 15 police officers have been killed in KZN this year.

A provincial breakdown of police killed between 2003 and 2011 shows that KZN saw 178 officers killed, second only to Gauteng’s 201. In that time 83 officers were killed in the Eastern Cape, 68 in the Western Cape, 45 in Mpumalanga and 45 in North West.

Delivering his keynote address at the summit, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa reiterated his call for tougher punishment to be meted out to criminals convicted of killing police officers as part of “intensifying the war against these heinous crimes that have plagued the country”.

“While the rights of all citizens need to be protected as entrenched in our Constitution, the rights of criminals must not supersede those of law-abiding citizens.

“A call was made to the JCPS [Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster of government departments] to re-look at the punishment of cop killers as part of intensifying the war against these heinous crimes …” Mthethwa said to sustained applause.

He said his department has also embarked on a concerted campaign of weeding out rotten cops within the police force.

“It is therefore not surprising that as a result people today talk openly about police who are ill-disciplined and those who are involved in corruption because there is confidence that if they report these things something will happen to such cops …

“We will continue along these tough disciplinary actions.”

The minister also addressed complaints over the increased levels of police abuse.

“We have begun addressing this through strengthening civilian oversight structures as well as partnerships with communities. If police become aggressive in a non-aggressive situation where a law-abiding citizen has become involved in some misdemeanour, they should know that that is not acceptable.

“In fact we have demonstrated that police would themselves face the wrath of the law.”

“We shall continue to cement police-community relations because in our view community policing is the central plank of our approach to policing.”

A pledge was signed by Mthethwa, Mchunu, Premier Zweli Mkhize, police commissioners and representatives of other organisations.

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