Police Must Act During Protests

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Leader in Mpumalanga

The apparent passive attitude of the South African Police Service (SAPS) towards protesting crowds is unacceptable and the SAPS must act earlier to prevent protest action from turning violent.

Late yesterday, the DA received information of continued protest action by residents from the Phola township, outside Ogies (adjacent to the N12 freeway). Residents are apparently protesting in demand that mines in the area must employ locals.

According to the information provided, no less than 12 cars travelling on the N12 were stoned by protesters. Furthermore, motorists told the DA that there were pitifully few police in attendance to contain the situation, and those that were present, were idly standing by with little intervention. Ironically, there was no shortage of SAPS officers monitoring and providing security for the visit by President Jacob Zuma to Middelburg – a clear reflection of government’s skewed priorities.

The DA believes that not enough is being done to prevent public unhappiness from escalating into violent and volatile situations, and have raised concerns before over the approach taken by the SAPS. In most instances, the SAPS do not take proactive steps to prevent violence form erupting, but sit idly waiting for protestors to “do something wrong” before acting, and then often find themselves understaffed and under-resourced to deal with the situation. If more police officials are deployed to flashpoints, protestors would think twice before acting unlawfully, which in turn would allow for ordinary non-protesting citizens to go about their daily business unhindered. The DA therefore calls on the provincial commissioner of the SAPS, Lieutenant General Thulani Ntombela to revise the current strategy of under-deployment, and stem the violent protests that are destabilising our province and to invoke a protester safety plan that would ensure that the right to protest, does not supersede the rights of others.

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