Mthethwa grilling continues at Farlam Commission

By Drum Digital
14 July 2014

The grilling of former police minister Nathi Mthethwa about his role in the Marikana tragedy continued into the afternoon at the Farlam Commission.

Advocate George Bizos, SC, asked Mthethwa a series of questions about his past Parliamentary statements about whether it was permissible for the police to resort to the use of violence when fighting crime.

This included his complaint that Section 49 of the Constitution, which limits the use of force, gave criminals “ a field day”.

Mthethwa had also said police officers facing armed criminals should not haul out a charter of rights in response, but suggested that they should return fire with fire.

Although sometimes Bizos asked long-winded and unclear questions, the general thrust of his questions were clearly at painting a picture of a government that had allowed the excessive use of force by the police in the years and months leading to Marikana.

Mthethwa explained that his comments were in the context of violent criminals such as those involved in bank robberies and cash in transit heists.

He denied that police had been encouraged to use force in their daily dealings with ordinary citizens.

He proposed the changes to Section 49 to get rid of the ambiguities so that the law could be simplified and “ambiguities” removed, he told the commission.

Bizos also tried to press him about statements then deputy police minister Susan Shabangu had made about the need to “shoot the bastards” without firing warning shots, and similar comments by then ANC leader Jacob Zuma.  The advocate also asked about the appointment of former police commissioner Bheki Cele at a time when he had the reputation of favouring the use of force.

Mthethwa refused to take responsibility for their statements, but said he agreed with them in so far as this involved violent criminals.

He also accepted that as police minister he is vicariously responsible overall for the acts of the police.

The hearings continues.

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