South Africa’s 8500 crowd control police officers will get a refresher course in handling protests, national police commissioner General Bheki Cele says. The decision followed several recent incidents of police brutality that were reported to police watchdog, the Independent Complaints Directorate.
The most widely publicised one was the death of protester Andries Tatane, allegedly at the hands of eight police officers, during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg in the Free State on April 13, the South African Press Association reports. “The management took a decision in Kimberley last week to give them a refresher course on how to handle protests,” he said while on a walkabout on a local beach. “Protests should be handled properly. There should be no one who gets hurt. Protesters who become violent should be arrested,” Cele said.
The officers to be sent on the course worked on crowd control during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. “They wont go for training all at once because there are too many.” On Tatane’s death, Cele said: “The ICD is dealing with the issue. I believe there is progress.”
The training would also remind officers how to use rubber bullets. “There is a proper way of using rubber bullets. There has to be a certain distance [between the officer and the person being shot at],” he said.
There had been speculation that Tatane could have been killed by rubber bullets fired into his chest at close range. Six police officers appeared in the Ficksburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday in connection with Tatane’s murder. Olebogeng Mphirime, Tehedi Moeketsie, Jonas Skosana and Mphonyane Ntaje, face assault charges, and Israel Moiloa and Mothusi Maqana charges of murder.
Two more Bloemfontein public order policing unit officers, a lieutenant colonel and sergeant, would appear alongside them later after being arrested last Wednesday.