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Going beyond 'I told you so'
23 July 2015

The 2012 Marikana massacre was a violent reminder of the continuing leadership crisis facing the South African Police Service (SAPS). With public confidence in the police waning fast, analysis by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) underpins practical recommendations about how to repair the SAPS and prevent similar tragedies.

‘We now know that fundamental failings of senior SAPS leaders is the direct cause of the unnecessary shootings of 112 striking mineworkers, during which 34 died,’ said Gareth Newham, head of ISS’ Governance, Crime and Justice Division at a briefing on 2 July following the release of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry’s report.

Analysis of the Marikana tragedy by ISS experts sets it apart from other organisations. ‘The balanced and evidence-based way in which ISS informs the general public and makes them understand the politicised nature of police leadership and policing in South Africa is a great asset’, says David Lewis, Executive Director of Corruption Watch.

According to the ISS, the behaviour of the SAPS during and after the Marikana tragedy only amplified the flaws in its organisational culture, which is characterised by a lack of transparency, honesty and accountability.

ISS’ evidenced-based approach highlights the politicised nature of policing in South Africa
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Despite these challenges, Newham argues that the SAPS has the necessary tools to fix its leadership problem. ‘The government need only follow its own recommendations to ensure the police has a strong, highly skilled and honest top leadership team’.

This means implementing the recommendations of the National Development Plan, including that all senior police managers are appointed on merit and that a code of ethics guides everything officials do and say. ‘Surely we don’t need more evidence that senior police officials appointed primarily for their political and personal loyalties do more damage than good to the SAPS’, says Newham.

The ISS is widely recognised for its expertise in highlighting policy challenges facing policing in South Africa. It has been asked by the SAPS and other relevant bodies to research issues like demilitarising the police, interpreting crime statistics and improving police oversight.

In 2014, the Marikana commission asked the ISS for a briefing on political interference in policing operations and the policing of labour related strikes. ISS experts also informed the Marikana commission’s recommendations through a formal submission on the implications of public order policing becoming militarised in South Africa. Notably, Advocate George Bizos used an ISS submission to parliament in his cross-examination of the SAPS national commissioner at the Marikana inquiry in 2013.

The ISS will continue to provide practical policy advice to the SAPS and related bodies to ensure that the leadership crisis in the police is resolved and that another Marikana never happens again.

For more information contact: 

Gareth Newham, ISS,, +27 12 346 9500

Media coverage of the ISS briefing on 2 July: