12 October 2009 – The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) has slammed the “shoot to kill slogan” saying this is a government strategy to avoid “the root causes of crime.” Masibulele Yaso writes for Times Live.

SPOHR was speaking during an exclusive interview with the Wits Justice Project this morning.

“A country, particularly like ours, can’t embark on a quick fix crime solutions strategy. The shoot to kill strategy is intended to avoid the root causes of crime, violence, criminals and its symptoms,” said the organisation’s chairperson, Golden Miles Bhudu.

“Remember apartheid big brains, made it a point that the majority of blacks and people of colour, become and remain the criminal class,” he said

SAPOHR represent and fight for the rights of thousands of convicted and awaiting trial prisoners around the country.

“For the National Police Commissioner of Police, Bheki Cele, to keep on with this public outburst to kill the criminals is unethical and wrong, because it will unavoidably send the wrong signals to police officers who are in their nature trigger happy and bomb shells,” said Bhudu.

He says the “war talk” did not make any difference when it was first mooted by the former deputy minister of safety and security, Susan Shabangu.

Last year the public reacted with an outcry when Shabangu called on the police to “shoot to kill the criminals.”

“The government must start in their backyard, by smoking-out political criminals, whether they are in parliament, in the corporate world, in faith based organisations, in non-governmental and non-profitable organisations, everywhere,” added Bhudu.

He says that his organisation’s interaction with convicted criminals views the shoot to kill strategy as not “surprising or scaring”.

“This message is definitely going to make them (criminals) more determined, more daring, more violent, to shoot first and adopt the modus operandi. That the fastest man lives the longest. By the way the police only arrive after the criminals have shot in and out of a situation anyway”.

The government has also complained that criminals are aware that the constitution gives them rights and that is why they do not fear the police.

Bhudu said most convicted criminals do not read the constitution before they commit criminal activity.

Bhudu said: “Let alone them reading the constitution, the majority of them can’t read and write, not out of their own doing”.

*Masibulele Yaso is a member of the Justice Project of Wits Journalism. The Justice Project investigates the plight of those unfairly/unjustly locked up in South Africa’s prisons.This article first appeared on the Times Live website.