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Police Do Not Have a Licence to Kill - President Jacob Zuma

Published on Saturday 14th November 2009

President Jacob Zuma on Friday reiterated that no police officer has permission to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law.

"The law does not give the police a licence to kill," the President said in a statement.

He said he had noted the continuing media reports about the use of force by the police, which had at times led to the tragic loss of life, including the lives of children.

"Comments that I and other government leaders have made about the need to clarify the conditions under which police may use lethal force in no way constitute an instruction to deviate from what is contained in law," he said.

"We have stated our position very clearly. 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.

"However, we expect our police officers to observe the law and respect the rights of innocent citizens, at all times. No police officer has a licence to kill," said Zuma.

Addressing Parliament's National Assembly on Thursday, President Zuma said that at no time during his address to the Station Commissioners earlier this year did he give police officers the right to shoot suspects in situations other than those stipulated by law.

He added that 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.

In the statement on Friday, the President said he was concerned by the tendency to reduce government's anti-crime strategy to the amendment of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which encompassed many other efforts.

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

He said government had placed crime at the top of its agenda and that it's anti-crime strategy was comprehensive and effective.

"We want to reduce serious and violent crimes by the set target of 7 percent to 10 percent per annum. We have moved a step ahead to implement some of the undertakings made in the State of the Nation address to revamp the criminal justice system. The SAPS personnel will be increased from 180 182 to 204 860 over the next three years.

"This year alone, the number of detectives will increase by more than 19 percent. We do not want criminals to walk free due to the inability to provide technical and scientific capability. We are working to improve the efficiency of the courts and the performance of prosecutors and to enhance detective, forensic and intelligence services."

Zuma said that given the comprehensive nature of the fight against crime, it was "tragically misleading" to reduce the strategy and activities to the amendment of a section of one law.

"We urge all sectors of our society to work with government to bring down the levels of crime, and ensure that we build safer communities. Working together we will win the war against crime," he said.

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