Cops to be demilitarised: Phiyega

By Drum Digital
26 March 2013

National police chief Riah Phiyega said on Tuesday that plans were in place for the demilitarisation of the police under the National Development Plan (NDP).

She said this while being cross examined at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg by evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga, SC.

He asked her about efforts she had taken to bring the SA Police Service (SAPS) in line with recommendations contained in the NDP.

Reading several extracts of the plan, Madlanga said it called for "an urgent demilitarisation" of the police service.

"The re-militarisation of the police in recent years has not garnered greater community respect, nor has it secured high conviction rates," he read.

"Certainly, a paramilitary police force does not augur well for a capable developmental state. The commission believes that the police should be demilitarised. Do you see that?"

Phiyega agreed.

Madlanga continued reading: "Demilitarisation requires changes in the police insignia, military ranks and force orders, to create a civil police service as a first stage of community policing."

He then asked Phiyega to explain what steps she had taken, in a bid to employ the NDP's short term recommendations.

"We have noted the recommendations. We are engaging the NDP, looking at how we can implement those recommendations," she said.

Asked whether she agreed with the NDP recommendations, the police chief said: "I think you are asking me a binding and difficult question. I have said that the SAPS, like other sectors, have noted the recommendations and are looking at implementing them."

Chairman of the three-member commission, retired judge Ian Farlam, urged Phiyega to answer the question.

She said: "It is difficult for me to say I agree or I don't agree. With certain reservations and discussions we will embrace the recommendations. It is a recommendation and we must embrace [it], we must find a way of working around it."

Madlanga asked: "Does that mean the SAPS is still studying the recommendation? Do you have a committee looking at the recommendation?"

Phiyega responded: "We are in the process of looking at the plan. In our main national management forum they have received letters from me, saying we will have a session to discuss this (NDP).

"This is work in progress. I am leading a team that is working on the matter."

Madlanga requested a copy of the letters.

The NDP is a product of the National Planning Commission, led by National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, the ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and Business Leadership SA's Bobby Godsell.

Earlier, Phiyega said the police intervention plan for the troubled Marikana mines was good, but got disrupted during implementation.

Because of this disruption the outcome included the shooting deaths of 34 striking mineworkers, which was unintended, she told the commission.

Madlanga asked the police commissioner whether the police intervention at Marikana could be described as a success.

"Taking into account all the factors you have referred to, would you say that the operation was a success?" he said.

"On August 16, we do know that 34 people were killed and more than 70 were injured. I want you to make a judgment and tell this commission whether based on the SA police Service's own tests, you can say the (Marikana) operation was a success?"

Phiyega said: "I think I need to be responsible when answering. I have said the plan was good, and it was disrupted. It is important for me to take all those issues into context.

"The outcome was intended. The plan was good, it was disrupted and we had an unintended outcome. We cannot have a simplified definition of success. It would be a broad definition of success."

Madlanga said the evidence-leading team would argue that the Marikana operation was chaotic and did not represent the best of responsible policing.

On August 16 last year 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

-by Sapa

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