PARLIAMENT’s portfolio committee on police fears that public order policing units in the country may be too ill-equipped to deal with the growing number of violent service delivery protests.
The demonstrations are expected to increase throughout SA as next year’s municipal elections approach. This is seen as justification for more boots on the ground and spending on crowd-control equipment.
This week police dealt with at least three violent protests in Mohlakeng in Gauteng, Majakaneng in North West and Malamulele in Limpopo.
Committee chairman Francois Beukman said on Thursday a visit to the Hazyview police station in Mpumalanga showed that top management of the police was failing to provide requisite resources and support for public order policing units. The committee has recently visited other provinces including Gauteng and the Western Cape.
The committee had seen the unfavourable conditions that police were working under, Mr Beukman said. The “shocking” shortage of resources was “exposing public order police officers to danger, especially when attending to violent unrest”.
“We are approaching local government elections next year and trends have shown that community unrest tends to increase during this period. Our police officers need to be adequately equipped,” he said.
The quality of public order policing in SA came under the spotlight after the killing of Ficksburg service delivery activist Andries Tatane in 2011 and the shooting of 34 mine workers at Marikana in 2012.
General secretary of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union Nkosinathi Theledi said the resourcing of officers deserved to be a national priority. The “drastic” reduction of public order police in 2006 had “created a vacuum in terms of experience”.
Parliament heard last September that the number of officers in public order units had fallen to 4,721 last year from 11,000 in 1995. A plan presented to the police committee was to add 1,000 police a year for four years.
The police’s budget was inadequate, Mr Theledi said. Last year the police asked the Treasury for R3.3bn to revamp public order policing units in the face of huge increases in protests.