Pretoria - Legislative reforms are being finalised before Parliament regarding the way in which the SAPS deals with crowd management.
This is according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, who yesterday released the report compiled by experts on policing and crowd management by the police.
In its 596-page report, the panel formed in 2016 put forward a detailed programme for the professionalisation of the SAPS for reforms in crowd management.
“The bulk of the recommendations are to be realised in the short to medium term as they are incorporated into the SAPS Act Amendment Bill,” said Cele.
He said the bill had already gone through a round of public comments. “These inputs are being finalised before the bill is tabled in Parliament.
“The bill gives the assurance that no automatic rifles may be used in crowd control management. It will also address matters of vetting and integrity testing for those employed under the SAPS Act, including municipal police.”
He said the Civilian Secretariat for the Police Service would monitor the implementation of the recommendations and provide regular progress reports.
The report comes as police conduct during protest action was once again thrust into the spotlight after bystander Mthokozisi Ntumba was killed when police shot at protesting students in Joburg.
In 2012, Andries Tatane also lost his life to police brutality, while the death of 34 mineworkers in Marikana led to the establishment of a commission of inquiry.
Cele said to date, the SAPS had paid out more than R176 million to compensate the families of those killed in the Marikana tragedy. He said another R18m worth of civil claims were yet to be finalised.
Cele added that Cabinet had directed that the issue of the families of those killed on that fateful day be looked at.
Another recommendation by the panel was the beefing up of the staffing and resourcing of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) whose employees recently complained of being understaffed and poorly resourced to work efficiently.
Cele said it was crucial for Ipid to remain responsive in its mandate.
“It also must have the freedom to build strong capacity and remain an effective impartial oversight body of the SAPS.”
Regarding Public Order Policing, Cele said interventions such as the equipping of the units were already in place.
“The units are better resourced today than they have ever been before. Nearly R598m has been spent toward resourcing and capacitating these units.
“The units are equipped with two-way radios, loud hailers, video cameras and PA systems for ease of communication during operations. Beyond this, 6 324 officers have been trained through numerous courses and found competent in proper crowd management.”
He said officers in the unit were also trained on the use of specialised equipment such as water cannons and stun grenades. “New generation water cannon driving workshops have also been conducted to further equip and empower officers,” the minister said.
In addition, all public order policing officers are trained in first aid and each vehicle used for the unit’s operations is equipped with first-aid kits.
One of the sharpest criticisms of the SAPS by the Marikana commission was the lack of transparency on the events of August 16, 2012.
In the recommendation, the commission encouraged the video recording of protests, public unrest and other mass gatherings by the police.
Cele said this had now become a standard operating procedure.
“In this regard, hundreds of professional video cameras, external hard-drives as well as voice recorders and stills cameras have been secured for this purpose,” he said.