Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

No licence to kill for SA police

South African police officer (file photo)
President Zuma had said the police should use "extraordinary means"

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has said the police do not have a licence to kill, a day after a minister said officers should shoot criminals.

Mr Zuma stressed that the police must obey the laws which govern the use of deadly force.

His government is giving the police greater powers to use force against the criminals who have made South Africa one of the world's most violent places.

But this week's killing of a toddler by police has sparked a national outcry.

"No police officer has permission to shoot suspects in circumstances other than those provided for by law. The law does not give the police a licence to kill," Mr Zuma said in a statement.

Murder charge

Last month, he said the police should use "extraordinary means" to tackle the country's "abnormal crime problem".

The government is trying to reassure potential visitors that the country is safe ahead of next year's football World Cup.

On Thursday, Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said it was inevitable that innocent people would get caught in crossfire when the police tackled criminals.

And referring to what he called "incorrigible criminals", he urged the police to "shoot the bastards".

Three-year-old Atlegang Phalane was shot dead in Midrand, near Johannesburg, last Saturday as he sat in the back seat of a car next to his uncle.

The police officer is reported to have said that he thought the boy was carrying a firearm, though according to Moses Dlamini, from the Independent Complaints Directorate, no gun or object which could have been mistaken for a firearm was recovered from the car.

The officer has been charged with murder.

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime with an average of 50 killings each day.

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