The degree of force used by police during a protest must be proportional to the seriousness of the situation, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday (14/03/2013).
Advocate Ishmael Semenya, for the police, was reading policy documents and other documents from the desk of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega during her evidence before the commission, which is holding hearings in Rustenburg.
"The use of force must be reasonable to the circumstances and the force discontinued when the objective is achieved,” Semenya read.
Phiyega said she was aware of this.
A document from the commissioner’s desk, dated December 2011 reads: "The use of rubber rounds and shotguns must be stopped with immediate effect and less lethal methods must be used to manage crowds.” Semenya said, according to the document negotiations should be the first option. Phiyega agreed.
Dressed in a black skirt-suit, Phiyega took her seat shortly after 9.30am in the Rustenburg Civic Centre and was sworn in by the commission’s chairman, retired judge Ian Farlam.
The commission heard that police had an obligation to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, and protect and secure the inhabitants of the country and their property.
Phiyega agreed police had an obligation to uphold and enforce the law.
Policy documents also dealt with how police should deal with protests. The use of force had to be prevented at all times, Semenya read.
The commission heard that police were to be firm, fair, and impartial, and had to ensure no lives were lost and property damaged.
"The police should change and adapt its tactics to the situation to ensure effectiveness during public gatherings,” Semenya read.
Phiyega agreed that one of the roles of policing was to respect various fundamental rights, including the right to protest peacefully and unarmed.
During a short tea break, Phiyega remained in her seat and read documents while being photographed from the public gallery.
She was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on June 12, 2012, under Section 207 of the Constitution.
On Thursday, the civic centre was the fullest it had been the whole week.
Phiyega is expected to give evidence on the role played by police in the events leading up to and on August 16 last year, when 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 injured when police opened fire near Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana.
Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.
In the morning, Phiyega outlined her education and degrees and the areas of management for which she was responsible.
Semenya went through the duties, responsibilities, powers, and the role of the national police commissioner.
The hearings continue. - Sapa