The Big Story: Trigger-happy cops under spotlight

How on earth did police manage to allegedly kill a bystander, using rubber bullets? And why was such force even needed? That’s the question police must answer after the shock killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba on Wednesday, as police tried to control fresh protests that broke out at Wits University. Students are protesting the financial exclusion of about 6 000 students who cannot register at the university this year, because of historical debt. 

Ntumba was shot three times at point-blank range with rubber bullets. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said it was investigating the incident. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed during a visit to the family home today that Ntumba was a Masters graduate working for the department of human settlements. He leaves a wife and three children, the youngest still a baby. “It is a sad situation to look at,” Cele told journalists outside the family home. “It is something that you can’t really be able to live with it as a human being.” 

So why do we still have to live with it? As explain has previously reported, our police brutality is far worse than that in the US, where the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted systematic abuses. In our case, it’s almost always black lives on the line. 😔

For too long our country’s policing leaders have confused a tough approach on crime with disregard for human rights. Now Cele says, action is being taken. “The Ipid, every single month, give me a long list of the names of SAPS members that are supposed to be referred to the NPA.” He added that they have also started implementing the Farlam report, which investigated the Marikana massacre where 34 miners were killed by police. “One of the elements where Farlam was very hard on it was the training of public order policing. That is happening,” he said.

It can’t happen soon enough. The student protests themselves are a tinderbox fuelled by historic inequality, and already brewing tensions over police actions when #feesmustfall protests first rocked universities in 2015. 

Cele seems to be realising his trigger-happy approach to policing is not working, and his rapid appearance at the family home shows he and other authorities know how terrible this looks. Let’s keep up the pressure till things change. ✊🏾