The affordable education loan option
Durban - More than 100 members of Durban’s SAPS public order policing unit were ordered to disarm at an ANC election rally in KwaMashu on Sunday because the stadium had been declared a firearm-free zone.
The decision angered officers, many of whom refused to comply with the instruction from their unit commander.
They felt it put them in harm’s way and that it went against their standing orders and the Police Act.
About 30 policemen followed the order and disarmed. They were forced to leave their 9mm pistols and crowd management guns – shotguns and gas guns – unattended in the police vehicles.
According to the Police Act, when a firearm is not being carried, it has to be locked in a safe.
Those who refused to disarm opted to patrol outside the stadium.
Officers assigned to police the rally said they were informed of the decision to disarm during a parade before the event. They were told by their commanders that the decision had come from provincial headquarters.
Only officers policing the perimeter of the stadium were allowed to carry firearms.
Some officers refused to comply with the order on the basis that it went against their standing orders, which required them to be always armed while on duty.
“The problem is if something was to happen to the police while they were on duty they will not get paid out by the state, as they were not in full uniform as per regulation, which includes carrying your firearm,” a police source said.
“That was essentially an unlawful instruction. Some members refused to comply and chose to police outside.”
“A lot of the members were moaning and groaning about the decision but they did not have the b***s to stand up to the commander,” he said.
“Another reason is that members did not want to speak up because they were depending on the overtime money. Working overtime on Sunday they would get R1 200 for the shift. If anyone complained they would have lost that money.”
A second police source agreed.
“It was wrong for them to disarm the members. What would have happened if something went wrong? The members were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not follow orders,” he said.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed that police were disarmed before entering the stadium.
“The inner perimeter of the stadium was declared a gun-free zone. Police members on the outer perimeter were armed.
“This is not against standing orders,” he said.
“Management will never deploy members (unarmed) if it was not a gun-free zone.”
Naicker did not respond to other questions by the Daily News, such as who gave the order and if the decision to declare stadiums gun-free zones would be the norm at other political rallies in the run-up to next year’s national election.
ANC provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said he was not aware that the police were unarmed in the stadium.
“We don’t know anything about that. We asked for the police to be present and we are happy with the work that they did,” he said.
“We were not involved in their planning.”
Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies, described the decision to disarm the police as “very strange”.
“It does not make sense. If criminals manage to get through the (gun-free) zone, you have effectively disarmed the police, the very people who should enforce a gun-free zone,” he said.
“It seems very strange that the police would be given instructions to disarm. It may have been a good intention but I don’t know why it was necessary.”
Newham said if anything had happened to an unarmed police officer in that situation they would be entitled to claim from the State.
“If they can prove that the instruction came from their commander they would be entitled to claim,” he said.
“It was only if they follow an unlawful instruction that are not allowed to claim.”
Kwenza Nxele, a spokesman for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union in KwaZulu-Natal, said he did not want to comment until he heard from the union members.