Former Cabinet minister Tina Joemat Pettersson is the portfolio committee chair on police. File picture: GCIS
Former Cabinet minister Tina Joemat Pettersson is the portfolio committee chair on police. File picture: GCIS

SA unrest: MPs urged to find solutions instead of pointing fingers at police

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jul 16, 2021

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Cape Town - Parliamentarians on the police portfolio committee have been read the riot act for criticising the SAPS’ handling of the violent protests in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Today is not the day to point fingers, yes, there have been shortcomings but we have to be realistic,” committee chairperson, Tina Joemat-Pettersson said in a meeting on Friday morning.

The urgent meeting was convened for a briefing from police management on the SAPS’ response to the violence and widespread looting.

Police Minister Bheki Cele did not attend the meeting, as he was in KwaZulu-Natal with President Cyril Ramaphosa, to assess the damage caused there.

Joemat-Pettersson said they had in the past expressed concern about the the ratio of police to civilians.

“We have expressed our concerns about the capacity of crime intelligence and the division of intelligence in our country. Those concerns that have been raised in this portfolio committee have, indeed, been the weak point of our operations,” she said.

Joemat-Pettersson added that the reactive nature of crime intelligence and the failure of intelligence gathering to be proactive in fighting crime, have been a long standing concern.

“The capacity of SAPS public order policing unit, this committee raised concern timeously on and on again,” she said, adding that the panel of experts on the Marikana commission of Inquiry had made certain recommendations for crowd control.

“We have also in the past raised our concerns about budget allocation to the justice crime prevention cluster. Again, now we have seen a compromised budget.

“We see supply chain management has had to step up because there was a shortage of the supply of bullets. We will get a report.”

Joemat-Pettersson told MPs she would ensure that the meeting did not descend to lamentations.

“We are aware of the weaknesses,” she said.

“I want us today to be solution-based to take our country forward. We are in this thing together.”

She ordered that MPs give advice to the SAPS and not point fingers because there were weaknesses and the police had been warned.

“We have warned in the past the number of police to civilians in this country was impractical and that this will lead to a crisis

“We are now in that crisis. We managed it but where do we go from here. How do we pick up the pieces?” Joemat-Pettersson asked.

She insisted that the MPs refrain from finger pointing at the SAPS.

“Let us as leaders take the police forward and make recommendations. We will have a meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday, and we will be on the ground. This is not time for us to be arm-chair politicians,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

Earlier, she noted that when former President Jacob Zuma surrendered himself, there was a very difficult situation which was brewing at Nkandla.

“We would like to commend the police for the manner they dealt with the situation. It would have been worse, it would have been blood-shed, but the police dealt with the matter effectively and very efficiently.”

She conveyed her appreciation to Cele and national commissioner Khehla Sitole for the manner in which the SAPS had dealt with the matter.

“We would like to commend our provincial commissioner who was also on top of the situation and gave direction and managed that situation very well.”

Joemat-Pettersson said they would conduct an oversight visit to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal next week following the deployment of the army to assist the police there.

“We know police are physically and mentally drained. We recognise the police as the central department in the fight against the unprecedented riots in our country.”

She condemned those who have caused destruction to schools.

“We say want to say the destruction of schools is treasonous. We call on communities to come forward and identify the perpetrators of this violence so that they can be brought to book.”

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