Unrest reports unpack failures of police and intelligence sector

SAHRC commissioner Philile Ntuli said their report found that police were ill-prepared to deal with the orchestrated attacks.

SAHRC commissioner Philile Ntuli said their report found that police were ill-prepared to deal with the orchestrated attacks.

Published Jan 30, 2024


The Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Rights Commission and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) have found there were lapses in intelligence and police capacity constraints that hampered efforts to deal with the July 2021 unrest.

This was revealed at the release of both their reports into the unrest in Durban on Monday.

The SAHRC findings also indicated that the unrest was a carefully orchestrated event but the cause could not be found and no link could be established to the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

SAHRC commissioner Philile Ntuli said their report found that police were ill-prepared to deal with the orchestrated attacks. “This might include insufficient training, equipment, or resources to effectively respond to the situation.”

Regarding the intelligence sector, the SAHRC report found that the government's shortcomings in effectively sharing intelligence played a significant role in the escalation of the unrest.

Ntuli added that the lack of any efforts by SAPS to dispel misinformation about threats to safety also led to more fears.

“The submissions made it undeniably evident that aside from sporadic attempts by provincial commissioner (Nhlanhla) Mkhwanazi to dismantle civilian roadblocks, there was a marked absence of a visible police presence. The lack of appropriate action in response to the initial signs of unrest led to criminal activities such as theft, arson, and malicious damage to property.”

Professor Luka Mosoma, chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission, said they were informed of police stations in Phoenix and surrounding areas where officers do not speak isiZulu and this issue should be addressed.

“As a result, many people from the African community find it difficult to report the majority of incidents to the police, due to the language barrier.”

National police commissioner General Fannie Masemola said they had noted the reports released by the CRL and SAHRC into the July 2021 unrest.

“While the SAPS will study the reports in detail, it is important to discuss progress that has been made.

The filling of critical and key vacancies within the crime intelligence environment have been addressed, such as the appointment of a permanent divisional commissioner and a deputy national commissioner for crime detection.”

Masemola added that through project 10 000, the SAPS has trained and deployed 20 000 officers in the past two years. “In the past year, 5 000 police officers have been trained in crowd management and deployed to serve in the Public Order Police Unit. (A total of) R150 million was also allocated to procure resources to bolster crowd management equipment for the unit. Training has also been enhanced.”

Turning to the violent attacks in Phoenix, Verulam, Chatsworth and Montclair, the SAHRC found black South Africans were targeted because of their race.

“The level of organisation involved in these acts, coupled with the lack of intervention by police stationed at the SAPS offices, and racist social media messages in circulation, points to a larger racial problem within the community.”

Mosoma said racism was prevalent in these areas and it had a negative impact on the lives of the African people in terms of the economy and public service.

“Racism is allegedly pervasively present in Phoenix and surrounding areas and it has been brought to the attention of the CRL Rights Commission.”

Ntuli said that the SAHRC recommended a “victim-centred approach” to the victims of the unrest violence.

“Police with the relevant authorities must advise victims of their rights and recourse, pertaining to their status as victims.

“Both the State Security Agency and Crime Intelligence are to engage and deepen relationships with different sectors of society to enhance the quality of intelligence gathered and its management. Mechanisms and measures should be put in place to address the rapid and timely flow of information in order to promote effective responses to national security threats.”

Ntuli added that the SAHRC recommended a collaborative effort by government departments, sociologists and psychologists to tackle systematic racism.

Mosoma added that they are calling for programmes in communities to address social cohesion.

The Mercury