Cape Town - Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer has defended his officers against claims that police did not respond adequately to intelligence about the transport violence that broke out in Nyanga on Monday, leaving a taxi driver dead, bus drivers beaten up and more than half a dozen buses torched.
Lamoer was questioned for more than an hour by a joint sitting of the Western Cape’s standing committees on community safety and transport and public works on Wednesday, before rushing off to brief Premier Helen Zille and her cabinet on the issue.
“The information that we received was broad and we had to deploy people all over,” Lamoer said.
The only information available before Monday referred to possible disruptions in the taxi industry in Kuils River and Khayelitsha areas. Lamoer described criticism of the police reaction to the weekend’s crime intelligence as “unfair and unnecessary”.
“There is a major improvement in our crime intelligence capacity in this province and the way they work. I’m quite happy with the information we received.”
He added that ultimately the taxi industry’s concerns were linked to labour issues. “Drivers felt that they must pay the fines and be prosecuted while the taxi owners do not assist.”
Lamoer said public order police had 300 members spread across the province.
“We have three units, one in Paarl, one in Oudtshoorn and one in the Peninsula.”
As a rule members had to deal with up to seven or or eight public protests every day.
Lamoer stressed that the province had seven key priority areas of which Nyanga and Crossroads were not the only hot spots for taxi violence.
“We also sit with Grabouw, Delft, Kraaifontein, Bellville, Vrygrond and Khayelitsha. We have all these areas to look after but we prioritise as the information becomes available.”
He said police visibility in hot spots was continuously adjusted and upgraded according to the threats received.
“We’ve stepped up our current deployment in Nyanga but the area is calm and the buses are operating normally.”
On the processes followed, Lamoer said police acted on early warnings and send out members accordingly.
The chairman of the standing committee on transport and public works, Lennit Max, a former police commissioner himself, said they wanted to determine whether the police had done everything possible to ensure the safety of Western Cape citizens.
Speaking after his briefing to the provincial cabinet, Lamoer said police had had “no information that they were going to burn the buses”.
In hindsight people would say that police could have done more, but if the police had not been there the situation would have been much worse.
“People must understand there are laws in this country, and they must abide by the laws. We have no problem that people want to protest because the constitution states that they have the right to do so, but they must take other people’s rights also into consideration,” Lamoer said.