Cops take out adverts to teach South Africans how to protest

2014-02-23 06:00

The SA Police Service (SAPS) has started a new campaign to teach South Africans how to protest peacefully – and a marketing expert thinks it might just work.

“Everyone has the right to protest, but they need to know how. That’s why we educate people about how to protest peacefully,” said Zweli Mnisi, spokesperson for Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa.

Earlier this week the SAPS ran a full-page advertorial in the Sowetan urging the public to protest peacefully. “As a government that upholds freedom of expression, we recognise the right to express grievances through public protests. We, however, reiterate a call to all members of society to refrain from carrying dangerous weapons during public protests,” read the advert.

Mnisi called the advert a “call to action” and hoped it would create a “shift in mind-set”. “To protest is your right, but people need to stop bringing knobkerries and other weapons to protests,” said Mnisi.

Earlier this month, deputy provincial commissioner in Gauteng Major General Tebello Mosikili said the increased number of police officers who were not part of Public Order Policing (POP) units and were dispatched to handle protests may play a role in the shooting of protesters by police.

In the advert, the SAPS promises to increase the number of POP-trained officers to 9 000 and also incorporate the metro police in this training. “We realised there was a loophole and that the metro police were not properly trained to deal with violent protests, so we’ve decided to include them in the training so we can increase the capacity of the number of officials who can respond effectively to protests,” said Mnisi.

But will this advert of approximately R99 874 be effective?

Chris Moerdyk, marketing adviser and analyst, says it’s a step in the right direction for the SAPS. “Considering the context in which the advert has been released, I think it can be very powerful. The more information the public receives, the better,” he said.

Moerdyk advised that the campaign not only be run in one medium. “The best way for the SAPS to get their message across is to use different media like radio and TV, and not only newspapers.”

Mnisi said various TV channels and radio stations had been approached. “This is a multifaceted campaign. We want to educate the public through as many platforms as possible.”

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