Law enforcement agencies retrieve suspected stolen goods including washing machines, fridges, stoves and beds among other items that were looted during the unrest at the Mansel Road Market in the Durban CBD. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Law enforcement agencies retrieve suspected stolen goods including washing machines, fridges, stoves and beds among other items that were looted during the unrest at the Mansel Road Market in the Durban CBD. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

eThekwini Municipality unveils ambitious R300m security ‘unrest fund’plan to keep Durban residents safe

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Aug 25, 2021

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DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has tabled an ambitious R300 million security plan aimed at protecting the city’s residents, infrastructure and businesses in the event of future unrest.

The plan, unveiled at the city’s executive committee meeting yesterday, is largely focused on the procurement of much-needed human resources and equipment.

It looked at the shortcomings identified during last month’s unrest, where businesses throughout the city were looted and torched. The city’s latest security response detailed the resources needed to plug those gaps.

From a human resources perspective, the plan called for the employment of more metro officers, officers trained to handle crowds, the need to increase in-house security, and the establishment of a reserve force that could be called up when needed.

It spoke of the procurement of equipment like cars, guns and armoured vehicles, among other necessary equipment. The estimated budget to meet the needs the city has identified is R278.5m.

According to the plan for human resources, the city would need about R78.3m to employ 96 firefighters, R77.8m for 200 fully-trained officers for public order policing and R59m for 67 security officials.

For equipment the city would need to fork out R31.9m for two specialised fire vehicles and equipment.

It needs R99.5m for 200 shotguns, 20 rifles, two armoured vehicles, three water cannons, 10 prisoner centres, 10 modified cars, 40 prisoner vans and two TLBs. For effective communication, the municipality would invest R100m on the upgrading of the unified communication platform and other relevant smart policing technology.

The DA, however, criticised the plan, saying it was a wish list and a “10-year” plan that would not be effective should another bout of unrest erupt overnight.

Looking at some of the shortfalls and challenges identified, the report said the daily operations of the metro police unit were affected as they had to deal with serious complaints and incidents linked to the looting.

“The ratio of police officers to transgressors posed a serious challenge due to insufficient crowd management,” the report said.

It said when metro police officers responded to incidents they usually were in pairs, but in the unrest they had to be deployed in large numbers, which affected the availability of resources.

It said the city had to deploy between 359 and 755 members for day shifts and 150 and 247 for night shifts. Other challenges included that the CCTV cameras were not functional in some hot spots, and some of the infrastructure was damaged during the unrest.

To address the shortcomings in security, it said, there was a need to boost the metro police by recruiting 200 externally-trained Public Order Police personnel, and each region would get about 40 deployments.

The report said the municipality would also need to either procure or hire heavy duty plant equipment like TLBs in order to promptly clear road blockages.

“For crowd management, procurement of two water cannon, additional automatic transmission quantum (vehicles) to carry the proposed increased crowd management members was needed,” it said.

These vehicles should be designed to include added defence mechanisms such as shields to protect the driver and passengers against violent mobs, and be equipped with CCTV to assist with detection in hot-spot areas.

“In addition to crowd management capacity at metro police, tools such as shotguns, pistols, tasers and shields will need to be contemplated and procured; there is also a need for an armoury vehicle to transport ammunition on call to volatile incidents.”

The report also called on the municipality to “increase land invasion control capacity and city hall security, as it is vulnerable when there is unrest.”

The report also proposed the procurement of an armoured vehicle to transport city leadership to address crowds in volatile situations.

Reacting to the security plan, DA councillor Yogis Govender said it was a long-term plan that did not offer any comfort to eThekwini residents that they would be safe should another riot break out.

“What a disappointment! This plan will take years and is not a solution if unrest breaks out tonight,” she said.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the city had a responsibility to ensure security or it might lose the investors and businesses that feel unsafe.

“That violence exposed us to how unprepared we are, how much we lack in resources,” he said.

DA councillor Nicole Graham said the plan was a security wish-list.

She said such a plan could only be fully operational if there was a budget and timelines in place to ensure that everything it proposes was done. She called for exco to be briefed on a monthly basis on the stages of implementation.

ANC councillor Sipho Kaunda said the business community needed to be involved in beefing-up security in the city, adding that it would require funding.

THE MERCURY

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