THE bad news is that several members of Gauteng's tactical
response team (TRT) - known as amaBerete (men in berets) - allegedly
heartlessly punched, kicked and beat patrons at Shisa Nyama, a famous watering
hole in the Vaal township of Sebokeng.
The good news is that a hi-tech camera mounted inside the
famous tavern recorded the assault and the videotape has been shown all around
But another piece of bad news is that the same police unit
has allegedly been involved in many acts of brutal violence throughout the
country since it was launched in 2009.
It was also reportedly part of the police unit that opened
fire on striking workers, killing 34 miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine in North
West Province almost three weeks ago.
This begs two questions: who are these people, and what is
the impact of their brute force on the country's economic development?
Bheki Cele, the former national police commissioner,
launched the TRTs to fight housebreakings, bank robberies and cash in transit
These officers are deployed to cluster stations where about
40 to 50 of them look after five or six police stations.
They are highly resourced technically and physically. They
undergo physical and technical training every three months.
When one of their members gains weight – even by a kilogram
or two - they are removed from the team.
They can be anything up to 35 years of age. And they drive
BMWs and Golf GTIs as they are highly mobilised in terms of response.
Cele once told a Gauteng daily newspaper: "None of
these members have been picked up dead on the battle field. Officers who have
died on duty are from local police stations, not TRT officers."
Cele might have had great intentions with the formation of
these units. But their actions have left much to be desired and could cause
untold harm to business and economic development.
Police violence, like any other type of violence, has a
significantly negative impact on economic development.
Throughout the world, police tactics and roles are increasingly
entwined with economic development and private investment objectives. This
should be the case in South Africa.
Show me any prudent investor who would like to invest their
money in a country whose police force brutalises its citizens.
They will not invest at all, because they know for a fact
that left unaddressed, police brutality could lead to huge instability in the
nation. And instability is not good for anyone's money.
Countries now compete to establish themselves as safe,
investment-friendly consumer centres, with the containment of all forms of
violence having become priority number one.
They deal with all forms of violence, including that which
is perpetrated by police forces.
As this country's police brutality was recently flighted on
South Africa's free-to-air news channel, eNCA, there is no doubt that some
London-based investors saw this and could take a negative position on the
And this economy will face the likelihood of continuing to
shed jobs instead of creating them. eNCA is now beamed also in London, home to
many high-powered investor think-tanks.
How can these units apply themselves without being too
More than ever before, police participation in the community
should extend to the provision and regulation of social services, neighbourhood
development initiatives and schools.
Factors that contribute to crime and violence function at
multiple levels. These include the individual, family and peer group, community
So no single intervention, no matter how well designed and
executed, will solve the problem.
South Africa's newly-formed tactical units rely on old,
reactive policing models. There is ample room to improve results by shifting to
problem-orientated policing using modern information systems.
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