Johannesburg - The police in South Africa have their hands full, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega warned on Friday.
“The country is experiencing very challenging circumstances in policing,” she said, speaking at an SA Police Union (Sapu) central executive committee meeting in Pretoria.
“Police hands are full... our hands are full. We have our purpose to continue to ensure that South Africans feel they are safe; at the same time, there are a lot of... [incidents] that are erupting all over...”
Phiyega said police were facing a flood of instability and public disorder incidents, caused by services not being delivered to people and communities across the country.
Books and services were not delivered and “we have no control over these variables”, she told the meeting.
“But when people get angry and when disruptions take place, the people who are expected to bring calmness, the people who are expected to bring law and order, are us,” Phiyega said.
Earlier, Sapu president Mpho Kwinika said police officers should be properly trained to deal with public violence, and strikes that turned violent.
“Members of the police force lack the required skills to handle public violence,” Kwinika said. “Police cannot be seen as the enemy of the people.”
Communities often used violence during protests and strikes in order to be heard by authorities. Sapu was worried not enough was being done to train police officers in crowd management, he said.
In the Western Cape, one person has died and several have been injured in farmworker protests over wages and living conditions.
The protests started in De Doorns last week among table grape harvesters, who want to be paid R150 a day. Most earn between R69 and R75 a day. The protests had spread to 15 other towns by Wednesday.
Kwinika said violence such as the shooting dead of 34 striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine on August 16 this year, had caused people to lose faith in the police and their ability to protect them.
Phiyega said it was because the police had restored peace and order in Marikana that the Farlam Commission could now do its work to determine what had happened.
She said De Doorns might still be burning, but in two or three weeks' time the police would have restored calm.
“That is the miracle we produce... But the miracle is unsustainable,” she said.
Phiyega said stakeholders should work together to come up with solutions to end strikes and deliver services.