United Front set to embark on national protests


By Karl Gernetzky 17 March 2015 20:36

THE United Front, an alliance of activist and leftist forces, is due to embark on a series of national protests on Wednesday in protest of what they see as declining neutrality of the police during protests.

Organisations including the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the Right-to-Know campaign and the Marikana Support campaign will begin by picketing outside the US consulate in Sandton on Wednesday.

This will be the start of a series of national protests against both the seeming “remilitarisation” of SA’s police service and increasingly difficulty for communities seeking to peacefully protest, the Right-to-Know’s Jane Duncan said on Tuesday.

That protest will be against police violence in that country, while a series of domestic protests will be undertaken in pursuit of 10 demands that include work to “inculcate a culture that police are workers and should not turn their guns on strikers and protesters,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

The issue of public order policing and a tough stance against criminality through words like “shoot-to-kill” from previous senior police officials has been under scrutiny since the death of protestor Andries Tatane in 2011 as well as the 2012 deaths in Marikana.

Further protests would include night vigils, human chains around police stations as well as the erecting of symbolic tombstone, the United Front said in a statement on Tuesday. Other demands include the removal of all paramilitary police units from public order policing, additional training along with a return to community policing, as well as, “An independent investigation into the true extent of police militarisation and substantial demilitarisation of the police”.

Prof Duncan said on Tuesday that despite a push for additional public order police resources, 86% to 90% of protests continued to be peaceful, with a concern that requirements for securing protest rights were becoming increasingly stringent.

“No doubt violence is indeed on the increase, but not in the same way and scale being presented,” she said.

The Institute for Security Studies head of the governance, crime and justice division Gareth Newham said yesterday while concerns over the militarisation of the police was valid, it was not new. It had been raised in the National Development Plan (NDP), which had been subsequently adopted by Cabinet.

The NDP had maintained that a militarised police force, with paramilitary units, was incompatible with a developmental state. Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega announced in 2013 the police would begin demilitarisation.