Phiyega: Less lethal guns on the way

2014-09-10 15:56
Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

Riah Phiyega (Picture: AP)

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Pretoria - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega was questioned on Wednesday about the use of the deadly R5 assault rifles in public order management.

"Is it correct that even in every unit of the POP (public order policing unit), who are normally armed with non-lethal weapons, there would be one person with an R5?" chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Ian Farlam asked in Pretoria.

Phiyega agreed.

"In the light of the advice you got (from international policing expert Cees de Rover) in February or March 2013, do you accept that it is irresponsible to proceed with the use of weapons of that kind in operations of that sort?" Farlam asked.

Phiyega disagreed and said the use of weapons took into account the level of threat.

"It is important for us to ensure that police are equipped to be able to manage the threat that would have been assessed adequately," she said.

"For now, the R5 remains. We are looking at additional research, looking at less lethal weapons we can use. When we get to a point where we get a less lethal weapon, we shall do so."

Armaments being evaluated

Farlam asked if police units, including the POP, continue to use the R5 rifles, especially after the shooting in Marikana of protesting Lonmin mineworkers.

"Even the POP people have the 9mm pistols. Those are lethal. The problem with the R5 is that, did you know that, the bullet normally disintegrates after hitting someone, with a high prospect of fatal injury even after hitting someone in the leg?" Farlam asked.

Phiyega said she had been informed.

"The R5s have been part and parcel of our deployments based on the level of threat. We are in the process of evaluating our armaments to ensure that we can get less lethal weapons.

The evaluation was happening with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Worked with 60+ police forces

De Rover, who started his career with the Dutch police in 1980, has submitted expert analysis of the Marikana shootings on behalf of the SA Police Service.

According to his resume he has over 25 years' experience in policing and international developments and has worked with police forces in more than 60 countries.

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the strike-related violence at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

Police opened fire on a group of striking mineworkers, killing 34 people on August 16, 2012. Around 70 people were injured while over 200 were arrested. Police claimed they were trying to disperse and disarm them.

Ten people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed in the unrest in the preceding week.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  police  |  ian farlam  |  riah phiyega  |  marikana inquiry  |  mining unrest

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