Zuma clarifies position on police's licence to shoot

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has reiterated that at no point in time did he give police officers the right to shoot suspects in situations other than those stipulated by law.

"...at no point in my address to the Station Commissioners did I give police licence to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law," Zuma said during his response to questions raised by political parties in the National Assembly on Thursday.

He said it was worth reiterating what he told the station commissioners at their meeting in September.

He said at the time: "As you are aware, we seek to strengthen the hand of the police in dealing with violent criminals.

"We intend to finalise amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, with a view to taking the amendments to Parliament soon.

"This is a measure aimed specifically at dealing with serious violent crime and dangerous criminals. It is the duty of the police to protect all people against injury or loss of life.

"But when their lives or the lives of innocent civilians are threatened, police sometimes have no choice but to use lethal force to defend themselves and others...

"We expect our police officers to observe the law and respect the rights of innocent citizens, at all times," the President said at the time.

The Criminal Procedure Act deals with the use of force in effecting arrest.

President Zuma said where the law still exhibits gaps that negatively impact on the ability of the police to perform their work effectively, then such gaps in the law must be addressed without delay.

This would include the use of deadly force as provided for and defined in the country's legislation.

He said the Minister of Police had already said that technical amendments to Section 49 would take cognisance of the founding principles of the Constitution.

"The exact detail of the wording of this amendment is being finalised and still has to be submitted to Cabinet for ratification," Zuma said.

He further said police recruits undertake general training, part of which includes equipping them with the skills and knowledge required for them to use deadly force under the circumstances stipulated by law, however he added that the training needed to be improved.

Therefore the proposed amendments that seek to provide more clarity, need to be complemented by training of all police officers on the relevant sections of the legislation, he said.

Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, refers to "an arrestor", who can be any person who is authorised in terms of the Act to effect an arrest, including a citizen's arrest.

"In light of the work still being undertaken, it's not possible to say what effect the proposed amendment would have, if any, on this provision."

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