South African Police Service (SAPS) has noted media reports regarding a study conducted by the University of Johannesburg about the Public Order Policing Unit and more specifically, the R3,3 billion budget proposal submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Police.
The findings of this research are a deliberate and distorted interpretation of our submission to the Portfolio Committee on Police.
It is clear that this deliberate misinterpretation of facts supports the view held by some of the researchers that the police should not be involved in the management of protests. The information was clearly manipulated in order to suit this view. SAPS management therefore takes g exception to being accused of lying to MPs.
On 29 August 2014, SAPS management briefed the Committee on the “state of Public Order Policing and the plans to enhance Public Order Policing within the South African Police Service in order to mitigate the current and future situation in respect of crowd management and violent protest actions in the Republic”.
Crowd management is underlined to show that the presentation was not just about violent protests. The motivation provided for the additional funding was not just for additional capacity to do crowd control management during violent protests, but for crowd management in general.
In terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act (2015 of 1993) and the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) each and every person has the right to air their views in public, provided that their actions are lawful and peaceful. There is also an obligation to police public events in accordance with the National Sports and Recreation Act.
In view of the above, the implications are that in general, all assemblies, gatherings, meetings, demonstrations etc, will be classified as Crowd Management (Peaceful) incidents as we have to deploy officers from the Public Order Policing Unit. This is a specialist unit in crowd management.
Violent incidents are not defined by “police intervention”, but by the conduct of participants that violate or infringe upon the rights of others. Violent actions include blocking the streets, throwing stones or vandalising property. It is not the police response that defines whether the crowd’s conduct is violent or not, but it is the nature of the crowd’s actions that defines such.
When roads are barricaded during demonstrations and weapons are being brandished, the police will act accordingly to safeguard the rights of others, who are not participating in the demonstration, to restore peace and order.
When crowds indulge in cases of misconduct and criminality, the police will open a docket when a crime is committed. These types of incidents, where violence has erupted, usually relate to labour disputes, dissatisfaction with authorities over service fees and flat rates, as well dissatisfaction with the response of the police.
The SAPS therefore did not conflate “incidents” and “protests”. Any crowd management action is defined as an incident, which will either be peaceful or termed as unrest. In other words “incidents” include all protest actions, peaceful gatherings and pure unrest incidents that cannot be justified as crowd management incidents like taxi violence, gang violence, ethnic and racial violence, demonstrations, political meetings, road barricades and revenge attacks by a small group of people.
The actions of the participants can be calculated as incidents registered on the Incident Registration Information System. For example, an angry group of people will barricade the road over poor service delivery and when the police disperse them, they will regroup and barricade the road again and that will be registered as one incident.
If the protest actions continue for an extended period, we register it as one incident on a daily basis e.g. if the community of Malamulele protests for over 14 days, it will be registered as a new incident everyday as we have to deploy each day after conducting a risk assessment.
Source : South African Police Service