At least nobody died today

2014-02-12 17:51

Against the backdrop of a puerile publicity stunt and the widespread political thuggery on display today, it was – weirdly – the South African police who emerged as the real heroes.

In fact, it was almost impossible to believe that these officers belonged to the same murderously incompetent police force that South Africans have become accustomed to reading about.

The cops were cool, well-organised and, most importantly, non-confrontational. (That said, they were probably assisted in being non-confrontational by the fact that few of them carried shotguns and rubber bullets).

In the next few days, questions will certainly be asked about the fact that ANC supporters were openly carrying bricks, sticks and knobkerries within plain view of the police. The supporters waved their weapons for all media to see and record.

But the police had a laissez faire attitude, which left ANC supporters to get on with running up and down in front of Luthuli House, singing and carrying their bricks peacefully.

The police did not, however, compromise on their roadblocks.

These were at the intersections along which the DA’s march route lay.

In effect, the SAPS created two guarded corridors, three city blocks apart. One was for the DA and the other the ANC.

It must have become clear to senior police officers that there was no way the DA could proceed to their planned destination, Beyers Naude Square, a stone’s throw from Luthuli House.

It was already filled with ANC members hours before the march had started.

DA leader Helen Zille would later tweet that they took the SAPS’s advice not to proceed to Beyers Naude Square in order “to avoid a blood bath”.

Sage advice, as bleak as it may sound to proponents of a constitutional democracy.

But it was the police’s quick reaction to being flanked by ANC supporters eager to get at the DA that proved their high level of organisation.

As the DA supporters convened a few blocks from Luthuli House, the police came face to face with ANC supporters who were already the throwing stones that they had earlier shown off to the media. But the would-be blood bath was quickly shut down by the police.

Mere minutes after the rocks and petrol bombs began flying, scores of police officers rushed to secure the line at the point where it was being tested. An officer was seen talking to one of the ANC leaders, asking him to calm the supporters down. This was also done in a calm fashion and handshakes were exchanged.

Minutes after this brief flare-up of tension, calm was restored.

Those who argue that the constitutional rights of the DA were violated probably have a strong argument.

But at least nobody died today. And given the current state of play in South Africa, that is something to be thankful for.

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