#UnrestSA: 'Lack of resources, funding prevented police from dealing with looters' - Joemat-Pettersson

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People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg.
Phill Magakoe / AFP
  • Police didn't have enough boots and rubber bullets to fight looters in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, according to Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
  • The Portfolio Committee on Police has revealed that more work should be done to prevent such mayhem in future.
  • The committee will summon the Ministers of Police and Intelligence to Parliament to account for the anarchy.  

Lack of resources, manpower, and funding should be blamed for the police not being able to prevent the recent unrest that left the country shamed.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said if the police were well-equipped, they would have prevented massive looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Joemat-Pettersson on Wednesday addressed the media at Maponya Mall in Soweto, a mall that survived looting due to residents' stance against the mayhem.

READ | 'It destroys our future': Pupils concerned after KwaZulu-Natal schools vandalised during unrest

"Our immediate understanding on the situation was the lack of resources, human power and funding to police. The police budget has been cut previously, and it will be cut by R11 billion. In this financial year, the ministry of police lost over R1 billion in its budget.

"Last year, we were supposed to have an intake of 7 000 recruits. This year we were expected to take new 7 000 police officers. This means 14 000 job opportunities have been lost. Due to budget cuts, we were unable to take not even a single police recruit for training," Joemat-Pettersson said.

Joemat-Pettersson said residents who attacked malls and other buildings outnumbered the police on the ground.

They were thin on the ground. There were no boots on the ground. If you can't respond to a situation that is an emergency and you don't have enough officers, and (the) SANDF have to come to aid the police, it will result in people losing confidence in the police.

"We have a few rotten apples. Some police officers were also looting. How do you implement the law when you break the law? If you have time for a crime, you must have time for jail," Joemat-Pettersson said.

READ | #UnrestSA: Thousands of looted bullets spread across KwaZulu-Natal

Joemat-Pettersson added that police officers who also took part in looting must be arrested.

She asked people to refrain from taking the law into their own hands.

"We are going [back] to the drawing board. This was a good lesson. It was an eye-opener. We can't be found sleeping, napping and ill-prepared. This situation has exposed us. We need to have a better operational plan for future similar incidents.

We were caught off-guard. We are told the police were overwhelmed. How do you have [sic] the police that is frozen? They didn’t have enough ammunition. Looters had live ammunition while our police had rubber bullets.

"We don't want our police shooting live ammunition at the crowds, but this was a war, not just looting. We will be requesting answers, and people must be held accountable. What if we have another threat?" asked Joemat-Pettersson.

She said police would have to explain to Parliament what happened.

Joemat-Pettersson promised that Ministers Bheki Cele and Ayanda Dlodlo would be called to Parliament to account for their reaction to the anarchy.

"Parliament must play its oversight role. There is no time for a blame game. We will be calling all security cluster ministers to account. We are a transparent government, and we won't call them in corners to account," Joemat-Pettersson said.

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