As news broke of the behaviour of a few policemen who were recorded dragging Daveyton taxi driver Mido Macia down the street, South Africa expressed wholesale outrage .
The incident was brutal and shocking in the extreme and condemnation has rightly been forthcoming from all sectors of society. His subsequent death in police custody has galvanised the nation who stand unanimous in their outrage.
The level of anger and indignation sends a clear message that as a society we will never allow the behaviour of a few to define us as a nation. President Jacob Zuma took the lead in condemning the incident which he described as: "horrific, disturbing and unacceptable."
However, as government we are aware that mere words are not enough in these circumstances. All eight South African Police Service (SAPS) members who were involved in the incident have been suspended and their weapons have been confiscated. They are all facing charges of murder and appeared in the Benoni Magistrates court for a bail hearing on Friday 08 March. A ninth member of the SAPS has since been arrested in connection with the case; his bail hearing is scheduled for Monday 11 March also in the Benoni Magistrates court.
The National Commissioner of Police Riah Phiyega also took the decision to remove the Station Commander of the Daveyton Police Station. At the same time the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has launched an investigation into the incident. The SAPS has committed to fully work with the IPID in their investigation.
The SAPS took the decision to suspend the accused police members to ensure that they cannot in any way influence the on-going investigations and the court process. We are confident that the law will take it's just course and that any officer found guilty will face the full might of the law. Members of the South African Police Service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties and where they are found to have overstepped the mark they will be dealt with in the confinesof the law.
But it must go further than this; ensuring that such an incident does not happen again is our next priority. In the last few years we have made tremendous strides in the training of members of the SAPS. In recognition of the increased demands on police, training has been ramped up and now takes two years where in the past training was only for six months.
Training does however, not stop after the initial two years. Under the auspices of the SAPS Division Training a number of specialist courses are offered, all aimed at strengthening the capabilities and professionalism of policemen and women. We are confident that these training initiatives will bear fruit and result in a better trained and more professional police service.
Our goal is to have a police service where every man and woman is proud to wear the uniform and selflessly serves the public at all times. The conduct of police officers needs to be beyond reproach, and they must act according to the law and the Constitution.
In reaction to the disturbing conduct of the officers in Daveyton the Acting Minister of Police, Dr Siyabonga Cwele said: “All police officers have a duty to fight crime and those who are not worthy of wearing our badge and uniform, must know that they have no place within SAPS. We view this incident in a serious light and we would want to see stern action taken against those involved. We want stern action so that it may send a message to other officers that any untoward conduct will not be tolerated.”
The message emanating from Government is clear, incidents of this nature will not be tolerated and have no place in our society. Acting Police Minister Cwele added that when members of the public report cases involving the police they will be thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators will receive the harshest sentences. “Equally police officers who abuse their authorities must know that they will not succeed in their criminal conduct,” he said.
We wish to commend the Daveyton community for the incredible restraint that they have shown in the aftermath of this incident. The police will continue to work together with the community in a spirit of cooperation and partnership for the safety and security of all residents of Daveyton.
Throughout South Africa there are thousands of dedicated police officers who put their lives on the line every day to ensure a safer country for all. These committed men and women in blue are the real face of the SAPS. The disgusting behaviour we saw in Daveyton by a handful of police is in no way reflective of the vast majority of officers who serve with dedication and pride every day.
Speaking on the day that she announced the suspension of the officers, the National Police Commissioner said: “We would like to assure the country and the world that what is in the video is not how the SAPS in a democratic South Africa goes about its work.”
Government has sent out its deepest condolences to the family of Mr Mido Macia. As Government we are fully aware that there is a long road ahead for the SAPS to fully regain the trust of the residents of Daveyton and the people of South Africa. We are, however confident that our dedicated men and women in blue will continue to work hard every day to ensure a safer South Africa for all.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)