SAPS ‘lacking in leadership’
Share this article:
DURBAN - A FORMER SAPS officer with more than two-and-a-half decades of experience, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said officers appeared to have followed standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the unrest two weeks ago.
“The SOPs are of such a nature that it severely restricts any police member and the riot police to act in these situations, which made no sense as they were vastly outnumbered. Police, at station level, are not trained or equipped to deal with these situations. They were not issued with basic riot gear or weapons to counter the uprising and, in the majority of the cases, were issued with a limited amount of sharp point (lethal) ammunition.
“If they had used the ammunition, they would have been suspended, investigated and charged with serious crimes,” said the officer.
He said the situation was an indication of the severe lack of leadership and insight at senior management level, who were “completely out of touch with realities on the ground”. The question is, what is the strategy to deal with this kind of situation?
“Were the countermeasures and equipment used by the police adequate and up to the task, in order to control these situations? Seemingly not,” he added.
“The police and senior management should be held accountable because they were caught with their pants down, as they failed to ensure that the South African public was adequately protected by an effective capacity on the ground.”
He said reports about there being little to no intelligence on the ground to plan and prepare for and counter these situations was yet another failure by police management in terms of the SA Police Service Act and that they also defaulted on their Constitutional mandate.
“What was exposed is the assertive drive to break down capacity in the police through cadre deployment and the placement of unqualified and ill-equipped managers who were put in place – from number one all the way down to the lowest rank – that resulted in the response that was witnessed by us and the world … This was a systemic implosion of mismanagement and incompetence that was cultured over many years.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the violence and unrest that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, FF Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said: “Nobody is justifying vigilantism, but the situation in Phoenix must be seen in context of the actual events that transpired there as well as the fact that a lack of police presence greatly contributed to the situation’s volatility.”
African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (Apcof) director Sean Tait said civilians had the right to defend themselves but the use of force in defence was a mitigating circumstance, not a right.
“When it is exercised it needs to fill the same tests we expect a police officer to abide by. When it comes to the use of potentially lethal force this can only be in defence of life,” said Tait.
He said when communities resort to protection, it comes with being able to do that within the parameters of the law.
“They need to bear in mind the extent to which their actions are necessary and proportioned. That’s what they’ll be tested against in terms of the events that happened in some of the communities. Was that action self-defence, was that action necessary, was it proportional, was it justified? And if not, then you will face the consequences of the law.”
Gun Free SA director Adèle Kirsten said what they saw was the ease of how quickly people mobilise violence against violence or what one perceives as violence.
“At Maponya Mall, the presence of guns acted as a deterrent. It is a well-known concept in criminology of what is called target hardening. When both groups are armed, it’s a given, it’s inevitable you will have death.
“The evidence is there that the presence of guns escalates the levels of violence and the potential for lethal outcomes. It increases the risk for people dying,” said Kirsten.