Police Minister’s Visit To NC Sparks Questions

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Leader

In lieu of the ongoing protest in the John Taole Gaetsewe district and the intended visit by Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, to the troubled town of Olifantshoek and possibly also Kuruman today, the Democratic Alliance is calling for the resignation of the Minister and also for the competencies of Public Order Policing units to receive urgent attention.

For almost four months already, tensions in the John Taole Gaetsewe (JTG) district have been high and the mood volatile, as more than 16 000 learners are reportedly being prevented from attending school due to an ongoing protest for tarred roads. Considering the extended duration of this protest and the detrimental impact that it is having on schooling, we cannot help but feel anxious about this ongoing unrest, especially in light of the recent tragedy at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

In fact, we cannot help but wonder why it has taken the police minister so long to offer a top level intervention into this potentially explosive situation in the JTG district. The Minister can consider himself lucky that this protest has not yet culminated in bloodshed, otherwise he would have even more to answer for. It is in this respect that we are of opinion that Mthethwa is guilty of failing to provide top-level leadership and ministerial accountability that extends far beyond the devastating events that unfolded at Marikana Mine, and that Mthetwa must assume political responsibility and resign. We need accountability now, before there is more unnecessary carnage!

At the same time, with at least 113 service delivery protests having taken place across the country so far this year, we have to ask why police management has not put crowd control doctrines in place? The DA is of the view that we must have an effective policy on how these situations should be handled by the police. This policy should include guidelines on training, regulations on clear lines of control and command, as well as the correct standard operating procedure to follow in cases of violent protests. SAPS must thus interrogate the myriad challenges created by increased crowd violence in South Africa and work to create a new balance to Public Order Policing. At the same time, the budget for training of police officers must be increased and the Public Order Policing units must be equipped to deal with the levels of pressure and complexity posed by mass protests.

The DA only hopes that government acts with urgency. The relatively peaceful Northern Cape must not be underestimated. There is growing large-scale dissatisfaction in response to the ongoing non-delivery of services by our provincial government. On top of this, we are largely a mining province, and there is little reason why miners here should not express their sentiments, as they did at Marikana. As such, political, policy and legislative reforms must be implemented with haste – it’s a matter of life or death.

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