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Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has accused the police of standing on the sidelines while protesters blocked the N2, government buildings and the airport by throwing faeces.
She said police officers had been slow to act against these protesters because Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national commissioner General Riah Phiyega didn’t show leadership.
“Some of the police ‘non-response’ scenes belong in a Monty Python movie,” she wrote in her online SA Today letter on Monday.
She asked where, in any democracy, a handful of protesters could close down a major urban highway, day after day, without facing arrest.
“On the ground, apart from the POPs (Public Order Policing) special unit, it is primarily the metro police, under the control of the City of Cape Town, that are containing the “ungovernability” brigade, she said.
Zille said it could be that police officers were following the “official line” from Phiyega and Mthethwa.
Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said Zille was selective with facts in her analysis of police actions.
He said her open-letter mentality was becoming boring and that the Western Cape deserved exemplary leadership, not politicking.
He was referring to a letter Zille wrote last month to Mthethwa about gang violence in Manenberg, calling on him to support the deployment of the army.
“During the N2 protests police arrested 182 suspects who appeared in court.
“We have also arrested some of the poo protesters at the Cape Town International Airport,” Mnisi said.
He said police had arrested over 200 suspects and had not ignored any of the protests.
Mnisi said the Western Cape should address concerns raised by protesters.
“Police are not trained to provide portable toilets, they are not plumbers.
“To begin to apportion blame on some of these non-policing deliverables is bizarre, to say the least,” he said.
Zille said Mthethwa and Phiyega displayed complete ignorance of their policing mandate.
“Both argued (during meetings with her in the last two weeks) that if violent protesters had genuine grievances, there was no point arresting them because they would simply return the next day,” she said.
“What hope is there for our young democracy when the very people responsible for defending the rule of law resort to such arguments.”
Zille said arrests of protesters hurling faeces had been few and far between since it started in May.
“Such arrests are a rare exception and are often carried out by the special Public Order Policing unit that has done its best to contain public violence.
“Often, however, the SAPS are actually on the scene, as bystanders, watching the proceedings unfold,” Zille said.
Zille has accused ANCYL members of co-ordinating the 12 faeces protests, which the ANCYL has denied.
She said it was hard to deliver services in a state of anarchy.
“It is especially difficult when much of the criminality is directed at destroying existing infrastructure,” she said.
Mnisi said the police had increased the training of officers since they saw an increase in incidents involving the use of force in public order policing since 2011.
So far, 1 761 POP officers had undergone refresher training, while 2 340 officers are currently undergoing training.
“The increasing and on-going violent protest actions throughout the country have led to the malicious damage and wanton destruction of property, injuries to both participants and police, and even in some cases, the loss of life,” he said.
He said police had to act within the law against violent, armed protesters.