Saturday, 03 August 2013 16:16

Of Good and ‘Killango’ South African Police (SAPS) and the rest of us. Featured

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Nigerians Protest_at_the_Killing_of_Obinna_Cape_TownMost would agree that South Africa’s miraculous emergence from the brink of anarchy and chaos post-apartheid was largely due to effective policing by the South African Police Services (SAPS).

In the mid to late 90’s , yours sincerely happened to be a denizen of the (in)famous Hillbrow  in Johannesburg when criminals from every land and clime ran amok perpetrating all manners of crime from, mugging to murder , kidnapping to carjacking and all worth not in Jozi and other cities in South Africa.

Many persons would recall those hellish days when gangsters lived up to the nickname of Gauteng Province (GP). It was Gangster’s Paradise and believes me it was more than a paradise for gangsters.

However, effective policing coupled with an efficient judicial system which ensured speedy prosecution and a satisfactory conviction rate for criminals, resulted into a far less crime ridden Gauteng and South Africa as we know it now. I once wondered what happened to many criminals I knew at Hillbrow while I sojourned there but got a clue to what became of them on a visit to Johannesburg’s Medium C Prison (Nicknamed Sun City Prison). They were all there! –most of the known Tsoties that made life hell are currently guests of the State.

However, the salute and kudos we show and say to the boys and girls in blue do not go without unfortunate condemnation of a few bad characters whose criminality always taint the good name and excellence of the South African Police Services.

Most foreigners and Nigerians in particular would attest to the fact that they have lost someone innocent or presumed guilty in the hands of rogue policemen. Unfortunately, the stereotype of Nigerians and foreigners as criminals by South Africa’s dominant right-wing mainstream media makes escape from liability for ‘killango’ policemen too easy. A criminal policeman can escape investigation or even prosecution by merely claiming that a suspect died of several ridiculous causes like ‘drug overdose’ ,’ escape from custody’ ‘trying to overpower police’ etc. and walks free as long as his victim is Nigerian. Stereotypes would justify his actions and the presumption of innocence of an accused until proven guilty guaranteed all persons in the Constitution would be jettisoned to obscurity.

Most at times, the Nigerian community addresses these frequent incidents in typical Nigerian fashion. We yell out in outrage, stomp the streets in protests. Then our outrage quickly burns out like incandescent stars.

Our community lacks the chutzpah to seek justice for our compatriots, our methods have not been effective in addressing the incessant killings of our nationals and we expend too much energy talking and making press statements that amount to nothing.

One would expect that we should change tactics and employ more efficient means in terms of bringing ‘rogue policemen’ to book. This country has an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). Ever heard of them?  They are statutorily ‘mandated to ‘conduct independent and impartial investigations of specified criminality committed by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Municipal Police Services (MPS)’.

And the type of matter they are statutorily required to investigate includes: any deaths in police custody, deaths as a result of police actions, any complaint relating to the discharge of an official firearm by any police officer; rape by a police officer, whether the police officer is on or off duty, rape of any person while that person is in police custody, any complaint of torture or assault against a police officer in the execution of his or her duties, may investigate corruption matters within the police initiated by the Executive Director on his or her own, or after the receipt of a complaint from a member of the public, or referred to the Directorate by the Minister, an MEC or the Secretary of Police, as the case may be, and any other matter referred to it as a result of a decision by the Executive Director, or if so requested by the Minister, an MEC or the Secretary of Police as the case may be.

Do I not make more sense that our community should rather focus on using this avenue to tackle the ‘killango attitude’ of some criminal policemen while policing our community? We are aware that our efforts gets frustrated whenever we try to lay charges at the Police stations for criminal actions of some bad policemen due to undeniable esprit the corps in the force. Does it not make sense that we should rather channel all our energy expended on expressing dismay and outrage in mobilizing funds and legal force towards successful investigation and prosecution of these killers to set example for the rest?

For public information, the South African Government is always embarrassed by the actions of these few never-do-wells in the guise of policemen. Their despicable actions tarnish the image of this country as a constitutional state. A tour of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) website would attest to the fact that the South African government is serious at policing the rouge police. Arrests, successful prosecutions/convictions of these bad eggs following complaints and investigations are openly displayed for public consumption on the site.

In conclusion, I would enjoin that we desist from fighting the scourge of ‘killango policemen’ in our community in the most ineffective manner and rather approach it via the most legal, credible and efficient manner statutorily provided for policing the actions of the police in this country. Let us put square pegs firmly into square holes.

By Sunny-Unachukwu John

Note: IPID’S Website is Any person, either as a victim, witness or representative or Non-governmental and community-based organizations can lodge a complaint with the IPID .A complaint may be lodged in person, by telephone, per letter or e-mail to any IPID office. The complainant must fill in a Complaint Reporting Form (Form 2), which can be obtained from any IPID office or can alternatively download "Complaint Reporting Form (Form 2)" by using the following link: 20Form%202.pdf



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Sunny-Unachukwu John

Sunny-Unachukwu John is an avid reader and writer. A leader in the Nigerian community in South Africa and a seasoned community organiser. He is an advocate for immigrants assimilation in South Africa  and co-steers  an advocacy group- Immigrants Responsibility and Rights Projects (IRRP). He is passionate about Law, Politics, Social Justice and Pax Africana. He also loves literature, film and soccer.