Alex Duval Smith: Events show the police are both inept and brutal

The police have not collected names and addresses of the 270 men held in 12 days

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By firing live bullets at protesters armed with clubs and spears on 16 August, the South African police showed they were inept at crowd control. They have now demonstrated that they are incapable of checking names and addresses.

Let us assume for a moment that it is fine for the prosecution to charge 270 Marikana miners with murdering 34 fellow demonstrators. Let us accept the prosecution spokesman Frank Lesenyego's word that the move is just a technicality to block bail and assume the charge will be reduced for most of the men to public order offences.

But even if that happens, what we have is a state prosecutor covering for a police force that is not ready to present evidence to court, 12 days after the incident. What evidence? The names and addresses of the 270 men.

The prosecutor Nigel Carpenter says the state is "stretched for resources", a corny assertion when it relates to possibly the most high-profile incident in South Africa since the end of apartheid. What is more worrying is what this inept and brutal police force is doing with the time it is buying. The accusations are – from defence lawyers and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) – that the detained miners are being assaulted in custody as the police seek revenge for the killing of two police officers at Marikana on 13 August.

The Independent Complaints Directorate, as Ipid was formerly known, investigated 1,769 cases of people dying in police custody or as a result of police action in 2010. Last year, almost 5,000 claims of murder, torture and misconduct by police officers were reported.

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