South African CSO Gun Free South Africa has partnered with Amandla.Mobi to ban R5 rifles in public order policing. If you’d like to support our campaign, you can sign on at http://www.amandla.mobi/stop_police_using_r5_rifles
Two years after the Marikana massacre, the South African Police Service is still using R5 assault rifles for crowd control. This was a shock finding at the Farlam Commission, when Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega admitted that police continue to use the R5 military grade assault rifle in public order policing; a practice described by an international policing expert as “totally unacceptable” 1.
The R5 was introduced into South African policing in the late 1980’s, at the height of oppression during Apartheid. Because bullets shot from R5s disintegrate on impact, police officers who gun people down in crowd control situations can’t be held to account as bullets cannot be traced back to them.
That a weapon used to murder, oppress and brutalise under Apartheid is still being used by police officers for crowd control in a democratic South Africa is unacceptable.
What happened at Marikana should have been used by SAPS as a moment to reflect on how public order policing and crowd control situations are undertaken.
The purpose of the ban R5 rifles in policing campaign is to give ordinary citizens a voice and remind Police Commissioner Phiyega and Police Minister Nhleko of their duty to ensure the safety of all who live in South Africa by banning the use of the R5 massacre rifle by those tasked with protecting us.
But we have to act now. In April 2014 South Africa’s government was one of just eight to vote against a United Nations resolution calling on states to end the indiscriminate use of lethal force against a crowd 2. Five months later Police Commissioner Phiyega asked treasury for an additional R3.3 billion over four years, some of which will be used to increase ‘physical resources’, for public order policing 3.
We are calling on police leaders to show their commitment to the vision of SAPS as a professional and demilitarised police service (as articulated in the National Development Plan) by disarming Public Order Policing and Tactical Response Team units of R5 rifles and announcing this banning at the first sitting of parliament in 2015.
1 Farlam: Police use of deadly R5 rifles ‘unacceptable’, The Mail & Guardian, 10 September 2014
2 Resolution 25/38: The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests The eight states that voted against Resolution 25/38 were: China, Cuba, India, Kenya, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Venezuela and Viet Nam.
3 Public Order Policing: SAPS demands more muscle, the Daily Maverick, 3 September 2014
Here’s the full petition:
Stop police using R5 massacre rifles
Dear Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko and National Police Commissioner, Mme Riah Phiyega,
As the leaders of the South African Police Service (SAPS), which is tasked with “creating a safe and secure environment for all the people in South Africa”, you have an obligation to ensure that police are not armed in a way that does not live up to this. You have admitted that the Public Order Policing (POP) unit and Tactical Response Team (TRT) of SAPS still use deadly R5 rifles in crowd control operations, despite the fact that the use of R5s goes against international public order policing norms. What happened in Marikana should have been used by SAPS as a moment to reflect on how public order policing and crowd control situations are undertaken.
We ask that you show your commitment to the vision of SAPS becoming a professional and demilitarised force by disarming POP units of R5 rifles and announcing this banning at the first sitting of parliament in 2015.
amandla.mobi is an independent social justice organisation that turns cellphones into a democracy building tool so that no matter where anyone lives, what language they speak, or what issue they care about, they can connect with others to take action against social injustice.
Gun Free South Africa is a national NGO working towards a safer, more secure South Africa, by reducing gun violence.