“The police are exercising crime and excessive violence against communities, and they are getting away (with it).” This is according to organizer of the Right to Know campaign (R2K), Vainola Makan, as the group joined about 20 other organizations in a series of nationwide protests outside the country’s police stations. The pickets, seeking to bring light to the scourge of police brutality, were held in line with Human Rights Day.
Amongst those joining R2K were the United Front and the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa), with regional protests held outside stations in Manenberg, Khayelitsha, and Delft.
Makan said it was no coincide the respective groups had chosen to protest on Human Rights Day, a day synonymous with police brutality.
“We see a recurrence (of police brutality) no matter which government it is, especially on those exercising their right to protest. That is part of our new constitution, and we are saying that we need to protect our rights, especially to freedom of expression and expressing our grievances,” she explained.
Amongst their demands are an end to police surveillance, and paramilitary violence, especially during protests. The respective groups are also calling for those found guilty of brutality within the police force, to be held accountable for their actions.
Comparisons have been made in recent years between the current and Apartheid police, with regards to levels of aggression on protesters. The shocking massacre of striking mineworkers at Marikana in 2012 has done little to better the reputation of police forces. Comparing the incident to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, Makan said there was no single point during the protest where violence was at all warranted.
What was most concerning to her however, was that in complaints related to public order policing between 2002 and 2011, only a solitary case led to a conviction of a police official.
The R2K are also seeking to challenge the National Key Points Act, which designates specific buildings and locations as ‘national key points’, baring certain actions like taking photos or protesting near these sites. Amongst these is President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
“The police are part of a system of secrecy, and undermining access to information. We are saying they must do their job, which is to protect, fulfill and promote people’s rights,” she said, adding that the act would provide police with the leeway to abuse their authority, potentially leading to further violence on their part. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)