SAPS needs R3,3?bln to deal with rise in protests

2014-09-04 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The South African Police Service (SAPS) needs an extra R3,3 billion to curtail the sharp ­increase in violent protests.

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega told Parliament yesterday the nation’s 4 721 public order police members can no longer fight violent protests, which had more than doubled in the past six years from 812 in 2007/08 to 1 907 in 2013/14.

In the months leading up the election, more than 10 protesters had died during protests across South Africa.

The SAPS said it needs the R3,3 billion to strengthen the public order policing unit by:

• increasing the public order units from 28 to 54;

• increasing the number of public order members from 4 721 to 12 779;

• appointing 1  444 support staff, including legal personnel;

• appointing 56 video camera operators to record riots;

• purchasing special binoculars, sound recorders and video cameras;

• purchasing vehicles, weapons, ammunition, water cannons and other equipment for new units; and

• buying dyes for water cannons that will colour protesters for identification purposes.

Especially the dyes reminded members of the historic purple rain march in 1989, when protestors were housed with water cannons in Cape Town, but Phiyega said the new measures does not mean South Africa is moving back to a police state.

Instead, the police need more effective and less deadly ways to control violent protests without having to resort to what she said many people considered as strict measures.

“The dyes are used around the world,” she said.

Chairperson of the National Joint Intelligence Structure, Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, showed Parliament how South Africa is experiencing an increasing trend towards volent incidents that require urgent police intervention.

Mawela said the expectation is that protests will not decrease in the near future, due to the current climate of service delivery unhappiness and associated protest actions.

In 1995 the SAPS employed 11 000 public order members, but their number was deliberately reduced in 2011.

The Marikana massacre in 2012 put the police’s inability to control protest in the spotlight.

The police currently have only 10 water cannons across the country and the fleet of Nyalas and Casspirs is old, Mawela said.

The 28 public order units are also placed far apart, which means it takes long for them to reach a protest.

Phiyega said the SAPS is on an accelerated journey to increase public order policing, but it cannot complete this journey without extra funds.

The total police budget for 2013/14 is R72,5 billion and will be R76,5 billion next year.

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