21 April 2011
Democratic Left Front condemns police murder of Andries Tatane and the securitisation of South African politics
The Democratic Left Front (DLF) condemns in the strongest terms the brutal killing of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane by the police, who shot him during a protest march last week. Furthermore, the DLF extends condolences to Tatane’s family, and welcomes the arrest of six police officers in connection with his murder.
However, it would be a mistake to see Tatane’s murder as an isolated incident, perpetrated by a few rogue policemen. Since the start of the service delivery protests in the early 2000’s, several protestors have been killed in police violence against protests in other parts of the country. The problem of the police using excessive force is becoming more severe. The DLF is all too aware of this problem as activists on the ground, many of who are active in the DLF, have been victims of this sort of state violence.
This problem can be attributed in part to the rationalisation and deskilling of the police. In 2006, the specialist police units tasked with the policing of gatherings were rationalised, leaving the policing of protests to members of South African Police Services (SAPS) that do not have the necessary training in crowd management.
But the DLF believes that Tatane’s murder is a symptom of a deeper problem affecting South Africa’s security cluster. Since Jacob Zuma took power, this cluster has been restructured to ensure that it exerts much greater control over the state and society than it did under Thabo Mbeki, which has greatly increased the coercive capacity of the state. Key positions in the security cluster have been dished out to Zuma’s ‘nearest and dearest’ politically, turning the cluster into the President’s personal fiefdom. The misuse of intelligence services that took place under Mbeki’s rule appears to continue unabated under Zuma.
In addition, the introduction of a military ranking system in the police is, we believe, an indication of a broader militarisation of the police, leading to policing shifting from a focus on community safety to a focus on law enforcement. The DLF believes that this move has created the impression, both in the police and in society generally, that the police are a military by another name. Militarisation can encourage a policing culture where lower ranking officers are required to follow orders blindly, which can quickly lead to a culture of brutalisation. In the case of Ficksburg, it already has.
The DLF also rejects the Ministry of Defence’s plans to deunionise the military, as a thinly disguised attempt to stamp out what few spaces still exist in the cluster for democratic debate and dissent. In addition, the DLF also rejects the deployment of the army in Ficksberg; this move is reminiscent of the apartheid era, when the army was deployed to townships to stamp out protests, and suggests that the Zuma administration sees the protests as a threat to national security. The greatest threat to national security is the continuing conditions of poverty and inequality, and not Ficksburg residents.
The DLF is also concerned about attempts to seal the activities of the security cluster from public scrutiny, by preventing information relating to activities in the cluster from reaching the public domain. The Protection of Information Bill is clearly designed to serve this purpose, and the DLF calls on Parliament to scrap the Bill in its entirety.
The DLF also calls for a review of the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA), which in our experience is being routinely misapplied by local authorities to frustrate and even to ban protests, giving the police even more reason to violently disperse protestors, if protests go ahead in any event. Given that the Act is administered by local authorities, in consultation with the police, it has created space for too many conflicts of interest to arise, as many protests are against the very local authorities that administer the Act.
It would seem that, in a similar move to the one that happened under apartheid, a new layer of securocrats is being developing in government where key members of the security apparatus exert increasing influence over government policy. The DLF believes that this restructuring of the security cluster has taken place because the Zuma administration came to office on delivery promises that it is unwilling or unable to keep. They realised that protests would increase: hence the need for a cluster that is more effective at crushing dissent. Unless the security cluster is brought under democratic control, rather than the control of the ruling party or even a faction of the ruling party, the killings will continue as they are not simply a result of rogue police, but an inevitable consequence of the securitisation of the state.
Another factor fuelling the violence is the increasing institutional failure of local government and incapacity to deliver on democratic mandates, leading to local democracy crumbling. The growing gap between leaders and led, rulers and the ruled is also an aggravating factor, as is the emergence of elite and top down governance which takes the people for granted.
The DFL joins the many who have condemned Tatane’s killing and mourned his death. The DLF also calls on workers, the unemployed and the poor to use Easter, Freedom Day on April 27 and May Day on April 1 to mark Tatane’s death and to highlight and oppose ongoing repression.
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Jane Duncan - 082 786 3600
Mazibuko K. Jara - 083 651 0271