Saturday, 9 March 2013

Police Brutality - An Appropriate Reaction

Mido Macia

The recent news of Mido Macia who was dragged handcuffed behind a South African police vehicle for about 500 metres, before later dying in police custody from brutal injuries, has left South Africans and the whole world shocked. 

The incident was caught on camera and it is claimed that the police undoubtedly knew that there were people recording the incident on their mobile phones, yet they seemed completely indifferent to the horrific crime they were committing.

Words cannot explain how this incident has made me feel.  How is it possible that people can inflict such horrendously cruel torture and pain onto a fellow human being?  Where is the humanity of these people?  Surely their conscience kicked into action at some point and informed them automatically that what they were doing was not only wrong, it was extremely cruel and inhumane? 

What drives this behaviour?  Why are people capable of such cruelty?  Does it bother them?  Do they sleep at night?  Are they haunted by nightmares of what they did?  I don’t know the answers. 

I do however know that we desperately need God in our society.  We need people to realise that God has created us all equal and that we each deserve to be treated with dignity and love, no matter the circumstances.  

The answer to all the issues in this world is love of God and love of our neighbour.  It is not, despite however intense the desire may be, to react with the natural reaction that fills most of us in the face of such horror.  Lashing out angrily in a desire to seek vengeance is not the answer.

Yes, justice must most certainly be done, but it is done through our legal system.  The perpetrators must face the consequences of their actions.  But what is also needed, more than our natural instinctive angry response and no matter how difficult this may be to accept, is best expressed by this prayer of St Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

In closing, I include below a “Statement From The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference On Police Brutality In South Africa

The gruesome murder of the Mozambican taxi driver at Daveyton Police station after being tied to a police van and dragged for 500 metres is another horrifying manifestation of the brutality and lack of respect for human dignity of too many of our South African Police.  While we commend the courage and wonderful work being done by so many dedicated police officers, we strongly condemn the torture and outright violation of human rights that is becoming the order of the day for many others.

We welcome the move by President Jacob Zuma and the National Police Commissioner in condemning the incident and instituting an enquiry into the matter.  However, we are deeply concerned that a growing number of police officers are taking the law into their hands as they show little regard for human life in their daily operations.  Questions continue to come to the fore: Does the police force receive adequate training to deal with such situations?  Are the police working in the interests of the communities they serve?

As a culture of violence continues to grow in South Africa, more than ever we need a police service that will be a counter-sign to this culture - that will be seen as a force for peace and the protection of all people.  Only this will earn the police the respect of the population and enable them to win their support in the fight against crime and violence.

We offer our deep sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family and to the whole community of Daveyton.  It is our sincere hope that family members of the deceased will receive help from the government as a matter of urgency.  We pray for the soul of the deceased to rest in peace.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference therefore calls on the government at all levels to:

  • Denounce such behaviour of particular police officers that brings the whole police service into disrepute. 
  • Provide more thorough training of police officers to empower them to deal with difficult situations with dignity and with a minimum use of force.

Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

Release: Immediate

Media enquiries: Fr Mike Deeb
Coordinator, SACBC Justice and Peace Department
076 234 7148

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