Tshwane unrest in spotlight before Parliament’s police committee

(News24)
(News24)

Cape Town - The recent unrest in Tshwane was in the spotlight in Parliament on Wednesday, with MPs questioning the motive behind the violence.

The South African Police Service was briefing Parliament's police committee on pre- and post-election violence when MPs questioned whether a "third force" had been behind the unrest in Tshwane.

Violence broke out in parts of the metro in June after the African National Congress announced presiding officer in Parliament Thoko Didiza as its mayoral candidate.

Five people died and shopping malls were looted as violence broke out in various parts of Tshwane following the announcement.

Major-General Leon Rabie told the committee on Wednesday that 353 cases were dealt with in Tshwane between June 19 and July 1 and 278 suspects were arrested.

More than 180 cases were still under investigation, four had been withdrawn and 107 were before court.

'Criminality a dominant factor'

ANC MP Angelina Molebatsi asked if the police were sure that a third force was not behind the violence.

Acting National Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane said he could not publicly say whether a third force was behind the violence or not.

"We have found that criminality was a dominant factor in there. We cannot only attribute what happened in Tshwane to [the announcement the mayoral candidate]. You had violence on one side, land invasions on other side," he told the committee.

He said a number of issues were behind the unrest.

"To prove that it was not an ANC matter, we today still have issues in Mamelodi relating to land invasions, unlawful occupation of houses. So you can't attribute to one," Phahlane said.

People might have taken advantage of the situation, he said, and ran with it.

Role of politicians

"It was not everyone, there was a group which is small that was behind this and we will continue to do our work in pursuing them."

Questioned by Democratic Alliance MP Zakhele Mbhele on lessons learnt from the Tshwane unrest, Phahlane said they appreciated the role played by political leaders in helping diffuse the situation.

This, he said, went a long way in contributing toward restoring order in those communities.

The importance of intelligence was also mentioned as a lesson, as well as the fact that no situation could be taken for granted.

"Also, we continue to learn that irresponsible statements by people in leadership positions remain a problem and that's why we continue to call on leaders to help us ease pressure on the resources of the police because we can’t allow a situation where tensions are being fuelled," he said.

The country had a lot to learn from the Tshwane violence as well as tensions in Vuwani, which had led to the burning down of schools, he said.

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