On Tuesday, Free State farmers set a police van on fireplace and stormed the Senekal magistrate’s court to get to the cells the place two folks accused of killing a farm supervisor had been being held.
The police took no motion.
“I need police to deal with me like they deal with a white man.” This was one wry remark from the Mail & Guardian’s diary assembly, the place we had been discussing what we must always say concerning the violence in Senekal.
That individuals have a proper to protest in opposition to the failure of the state to create a secure surroundings for all shouldn’t be doubtful. The degrees of violence in South Africa attest to a failure by all of us to diagnose the actual causes and to work on ourselves. The dearth of penalties for violence speaks to a failure of the state.
The fury proven by the mob of farmers is identical as that of different folks round this nation the place neighbours and members of the family have been murdered.
However the police’s response to the Senekal protest was completely different. In that nook of the Free State, the police determined to defuse the scenario and never use power as a result of that might have led to extra violence. It selected as an alternative to train restraint and persistence, after which arrest a person suspected of burning state property after the very fact.
It was a very good transfer. Tactical and strategic. If solely it was additionally customary apply for dealing with protesters who will not be white South African farmers.
We’re used to the police using violence to break up protests. Our latest historical past is affected by our bodies — from police utilizing shotguns and dwell ammunition on miners in Marikana to beating folks to dying in the course of the Covid lockdown.
After the homicide of 34 folks outdoors Lonmin, there have been guarantees that the police would do higher. Dwell rounds would get replaced by a police service that exists to work with and for folks.
Very like america, the place folks have referred to as for the police to be defunded so the main focus could be on addressing the social causes for crime, moments of disaster can be utilized to look within the mirror and alter.
However the default response from our “power” — as Police Minister Bheki Cele insists on calling the police service — is to dominate the scenario and harm individuals who break the regulation.
Senekal was completely different. The folks breaking the regulation had been white. No “dominating” motion was taken.
1 / 4 of a decade after democratic elections signified we’re all equal, the nation stays deeply racist. And our establishments proceed to internalise and mirror this racism.
If the police deal with white males because the gold customary of how protesters must be handled, then we must always count on that in an equal society we might all be handled like white males.