Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No “license to kill” for South African Police

A day after a South African minister said officers should shoot criminals, President Jacob Zuma said, "No police officer has permission to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law. The law does not give the police a licence to kill."

South Africa has one of the world’s highest crime rates. It is calculated that on average there are 50 killings a day! With the 2010 World Cup soccer games being hosted in Johannesburg the government is trying to reassure potential visitors that the country is safe. The government is giving police more power to use force against the criminals. Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula urged the police to “shoot the bastards.”

An incident last week sparked outrage all over the country. Three-year-old Atlegang Phalane was shot by a police officer. The little boy was sitting in the back seat of a car next to his uncle. The officer alleged that the boy had what looked like gun in his hands. After the search of the car no objects that could be mistaken for a gun were recovered. The officer is now charged with murder.

South Africa’s crime rate is high indeed! I have several South African friends and the stories they tell me are hair raising! Police need to crack down on criminals but to kill a little boy because it “looked” like he had a gun? I have a 9 year old son. When he was 3 he liked to play with guns and such but I would never ever dream that an American police officer would shoot him because he had a toy gun in his hands. The laws against the use of excess force are there for a reason and South Africa needs to clear them up so that no further such tragedies occur.

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