‘We could have done better’, says police commissioner at unrest hearing

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Police commissioner General Khehla Sitole. Photo: Melinda Stuurman.
Police commissioner General Khehla Sitole. Photo: Melinda Stuurman.

National Commissioner of Police, Khehla Sitole, acknowledged that the SAPS could have done better in how they handled the July civil unrest.

Sitole was speaking during the national investigation hearing by the South African Human Rights Commission, held in Durban, on Monday.

“After the learning experience, we started doing better. For each and every situation that crops up, your very beginning determines whether you win or lose the battle. We were supposed to be more effective at the beginning,” says Sitole.

He said there is also a need to sharpen and capacitate their intelligence unit.

Sitole also said that the SAPS has a shortage of police in the public order policing unit.

He said the unit has just below 5000 police officers instead of 12000.

Given the low capacity of manpower available, the commission asked Sitole if he would be able to manage an unrest of a scale witnessed in July if it had to start tomorrow.

Sitole said it will depend on the modus operandi approach but from the readiness of the organisation, a modus operandi analysis centre has been established.

“The unrest was not only a physical process but also a use of technology. We have also decided to enhance the revisits capacity by introducing a plan to compliment the force multiplier approach.

“There has also been a migration of police resources in the form of human capital that is being enhanced. With all these efforts at the present moment, we would have enough resources. I can give assurance that yes, we can be able to provide a response,” said Sitole.

Being asked if he had ever met with any of the victims of the July unrest, Sitole said once there’s an investigation, he doesn’t tamper with the affected.

He said he also doesn’t interview people, but instead, he gets reports with regard to the process.

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