In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

118 Mashopeng Go a Boelwa RevisitingOurPastasImperativetoHumanising LawEnforcementinSouthAfrica Mpho M. Matlala and Ingrid Sinclair INTRODUCTION South Africa is an unequal and violent society where the police are sometimes attacked by protesting masses. During the attacks, the police are faced with the dilemma of having to use force against the community and sometimes with fatal consequences. The August 2012 incident at the Marikana mine where 78 people were wounded in clashes that resulted in the deaths of 2 police officials and more than 34 miners1 , attest to the complexity of the problems in policing. We submit that policing in a society that is riddled with enormous social inequalities is not an easy task. Police are caught between being humane and enforcing laws against their own communities during mass protestations. Recognising community frustrations and listening to their grievances might quell the violence that is mostly directed towards police officials, who are seen as the representatives of government. The violence in South Africa has raised questions on whether the humanisation of policing is achievable. Prior to the Marikana incident, – the 2009 ‘shoot-to-kill’ statement by General Bheki Cele, the dismissed police commissioner, appeared to have endorsed aggressive behaviour by the police.2 It is because of such public endorsements that practices in law enforcement have become brutal to a dehumanising point. We argue that such brutality could never suffice as an enduring solution in any developing and democratic state such as South Africa. A more humane approach aimed at aligning law enforcement with the ideals of democratic policing that resonate with an appropriate ethical code and good practice is required. The police in any democracy should not be enforcing the law through inhumane and brutal force. In an attempt to find ways of humanising policing in South Africa, this article reflected on past lessons from an indigenous African perspective and proposes practical solutions to the current impasse CHAPTER 8 119 in which the police find themselves. This last mentioned reflection is also supported by a brief review of the humanistic and developmental theories that are applicable to law enforcement. The article also analyses some of the most prominent South African idioms which were suppressed by the de-Africanisation of the South African society through the colonial and apartheid rule, which idioms may play a role in humanising the police. One such idiom is ‘mashopeng go a boelwa’, which implies that an individual needs to return to his or her old ruins. This last mentioned Sepedi idiom serves as a reminder to individuals of the importance of consulting with the ancestors and of honestly meditating on possible solutions to current or impending challenges. Mashopeng go a boelwa has throughout the ages been reiterated by the Bapedi fore-bearers, to remind society of the value of the traditional ways of dealing with problems, by reflecting on past best practices and drawing valuable lessons to take into the future. BACKGROUND The hidden knowledge contained in the idioms analysed in this research has served for ages as a reliable compass for good social behaviour in many African societies. Individuals in traditional African societies were raised to appreciate the community and they believed that the ancestors protected the community, as some still do to this day. The ancestors were also believed to be watching how individuals conduct themselves and how they related to other community members. Whoever went against the wishes of the ancestors or acted in bad faith against the community would be punished.3 A high value was placed on transparency and accountability in the community, which principle also forms the basis on which democratic and community policing are premised. We argue that by revisiting our past, philosophies such as ubuntu or botho, which promote humanness, could be incorporated into community policing. Community policing is the official approach to law enforcement in South Africa and the inculcation of philosophies such as ubuntu, could go a long way in terms of institutionalising the African values of humanness into police work. Policing in South Africa is fraught with controversies and this is as a result of the country’s history of social inequality and violence. Three hundred years of white colonial rule, aggravated by more than 30 years of apartheid, which involved racial segregation and the economic exploitation imposed on black South Africans,4 have perpetuated the de-Africanisation of many communities. This coercion has also affected the social behaviour of individuals and practices in all spheres of life, the policing...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.