As South Africa marks the fifth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, this Briefing unpacks a key lesson emerging from the tragedy: If the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) had had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, Marikana would never have happened.
But Marikana is not an isolated incident; poor police leadership over the years has led to a steady decline in SAPS’ performance, despite budget increases: Murder has increased, the number of people killed by the police has increased and trust in the police has declined.
The solution is identified in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP): A professional and demilitarised police service based on a clear merit-based process to appoint leadership at all levels.
This Briefing marks a change from our usual Briefings, as Gun Free South Africa has partnered with Corruption Watch and the Institute for Security Studies in support of a #TopCopSA campaign to operationalise the NDP. Civil society urges policy makers and enforcers to take urgent action to ensure that South Africa’s next National Police Commissioner is appointed in line with the country’s NDP. An experienced, knowledgeable and respected leader of a professional and demilitarised police service is the foundation of effective policing in which lives are saved not lost and public safety is built not undermined.