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Cops: We can’t cope

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Public order policing has been under the microscope since the killing of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012.

Municipal IQ told The Times that 86% of the protests listed on its Hotspots Monitor were characterised by violence.

Police management yesterday conceded in parliament that the service did not have enough public order officers to deal with protests.

In 2014 the police asked for an additional R3.3-billion to increase public order policing numbers and equipment but the Treasury turned them down.

It has been announced that R598-million will be spent on public order policing over the next three years.

Testifying before parliament’s police portfolio committee, deputy national police commissioner Fannie Masemola said 11 unrest hotspots had recently been identified.

They include:

Grabouw, where residents protested against evictions and set fire to a traffic department building;

Hammanskraal, where two men were killed and six critically hurt in an eviction protest on Monday;

Vaal University of Technology, where students protested against the suspension and arrest of other protesting students. Buildings were also burnt;

Fort Hare University, where students set alight buildings in protests about the catering, housing and travel allowances; and

Vuwani, in Limpopo, where residents destroyed 21 schools in protests against a new municipal demarcation. A school was torched just this week in a continuation of the protests.

Masemola said more than 600 public order police officers had been deployed to the hotspots.

Some of the violence has been staged for political reasons, it has been alleged.

Masemola said police will be deployed in the hot spots until after the elections.

But, he said, resources were stretched.

Institute for Security Studies policing researcher Johan Burger said the solution was not in the hands of the police.

He said police statistics showed that violence in protests had risen by 274% in the past decade.

Burger said compounding the police’s public order policing problems were decisions taken by former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi in 2006.

Selebi, he said, had reduced the number of public order police officers from 7,500 to 2,500.

“The numbers have been increased to 4700 but are far from what is needed.

“In 2014 the police said that by 2018 the number will be increased to 9,000 members but this process hasn’t started properly.”

Burger said another big problem was that the violence was often driven by conditions and factors beyond the control of the police.

He said those protesting at poor service delivery often had genuine reasons for their grievances.

“People become violent because they believe it’s the only way to attract attention to their concerns.

“The police are the visible presence of a failing government.”

[Source: Times Live]

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