Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Criminal incidents that marred the Global Citizen Festival are nothing out of the ordinary, says a security expert.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) head of the justice and violence prevention unit Gareth Newham said it was not a new phenomenon for criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims during major events because they were “opportunistic”.

“It’s not unusual to have some thefts and robberies taking place at large events where many thousands of people are gathered. Many criminals are opportunistic.

“So, in this sense, it is not a new trend,” said Newham.

What was different about this concert, he added, was the relatively large number of people who were attacked in public.

“It seems as if small groups of perpetrators were committing repeated attacks openly and without concern of being seen or stopped by the many other people in the vicinity.”

However, Newham pointed out that security was not adequate given that a large number of attacks and robberies had occurred.

“The police patrolling the area should have been watching the movement of people and responding as the situation demanded.

“When it became apparent that a large number of people were walking outside of the perimeter of the stadium to the nearby petrol station to hail Ubers, they should have ensured that additional police were in the area,” he said.

Newham concluded that for such major events a joint security planning meeting was important to identify possible risks and devise strategies to deal with breaches.

“Potential scenarios where security risks would increase, such as stampedes, fights or fires, should also be planned for All security should be co-ordinated from an operational room that can communicate and receive information from across different security personnel.”

One concert-goer, Mbali Zulu, whose phone was stolen when she tried to defend her younger sister from thugs who wanted to rob her, placed the blame squarely on the SAPS.

“The police were there, but they were not helping people, who were distraught. Instead, the one police van was helping a car to reboot its flat battery.

“The fact that the police were not willing to assist says a lot about the SAPS. A lot of robberies could have been avoided if they were alert and were willing to help,” said Zulu.

She said her nightmare started when they were walking towards the Sasol garage to meet her husband and “all of a sudden” a man came up to them.

“As I took out my phone from my bag to call my husband, a guy came between my sister and me. Being a big sister, I defended her and asked the guy ‘What are you doing?’

“As he swore at me, another guy came from the other side and snatched my phone from my ear and ran away. I screamed so loudly that my lungs were close to coming out. But people around me pretended as if nothing horrible was happening.

“What was upsetting was that the police were in the midst of all this. It was really sad and upsetting to end such a remarkable concert with such an experience. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth,” Zulu said.

Sunday Independent