National police commissioner Khehla Sitole has extended the deployment of SA Police Service (SAPS) members to the two hot spot provinces to deal with potential protests ahead of former president Jacob Zuma’s court appearance on Tuesday. They will be there until Saturday.
It is reported that Sitole approved this following a request by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure for the extension of the special operation, which initially commenced as a special event from July 13 to 31.
The intelligence structure coordinates the country’s security and law enforcement operations.
The former president’s supporters are expected to turn up in their numbers at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, where Zuma will be making his first public appearance since being jailed early last month for contempt of court.
The court and the National Prosecuting Authority wanted the hearing, seeking lead prosecutor Billy Downer’s removal from Zuma’s arms deal corruption case, to be held virtually in the wake of the recent unrest, but Zuma’s legal team won a minor victory when Judge Piet Koen ruled the court appearance should be done in person.
Zuma will now be transported from the Estcourt Correctional Centre to Pietermaritzburg. His supporters have been encouraged to descend on the provincial capital, whose CBD and surrounds saw some of the worst looting and destruction during last month’s riots.
Now the security services, who were caught napping during the mayhem that cost the country more than R50 billion and claimed 337 lives in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, are not taking any chances.
The police were nowhere to be seen as trucks were burnt on the highways and malls were vandalised as millions watched the lawlessness.
At the height of the unrest, government announced that it had received intelligence from its coordinating committee made up of the SAPS’ crime intelligence, and the defence intelligence and state security intelligence bodies, to enable law enforcement to counter sporadic violent protests.
Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence said in a report dated July 31 that the SAPS had admitted to several shortcomings in its policing approach, including the need for better intelligence to drive operations.
“Second, better crowd management training is required, with the presenter noting the possible need to improve the training of ordinary station members in crowd management. Third, the SAPS highlighted those broader concerns of poverty and unemployment that need to be addressed as an underlying solution to these problems,” said the committee’s report.
The SAPS presentation to the committee started with an extensive background of the violence and highlighted activities around Zuma’s incarceration, then shifted to security threats that had emerged as the riots and the looting spread across both provinces.
“Threats were made against critical infrastructure, including the Port of Durban and the courts in the province. The report also highlighted the modus operandi of the rioters, which included petrol bombing, discharging of firearms, torching of infrastructure and using tipper trucks to block roads,” Major General Phumelele Makoba from the SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal told the committee.
Makoba also emphasised the role of social media in organising or instigating the violence, and highlighted that this aspect was under investigation.
The committee prepared the report following an oversight visit to review the military deployed under the code name Operation Prosper in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after the spate of public looting, vandalism and killings during the unrest.
The committee said the complexity of urban missions raised the need for a debate around the utilisation of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its appropriate funding. It added that the budget cuts in recent years had had a detrimental impact on the SANDF.
The army also did not have fit-for-purpose equipment, as most weapons were old and the troops’ transport capabilities seemed to be under severe pressure. In addition, the SA Air Force’s capability to support extensive operations was limited by evident aircraft constraints that could seriously affect the effectiveness of a support mission as well as troop and logistics movement.
Although the committee recommended the SANDF’s presence in support of the SAPS should the risk assessment demand it, the members also warned President Cyril Ramaphosa to take “a balanced approach to domestic SANDF deployments, as protracted deployments can negatively affect the state of civil-military relations in the country and ultimately erode the trust that South Africans place in the SANDF”.
The committee proposed that the Speaker of the National Assembly should schedule an urgent, separate parliamentary debate on the future utilisation, funding and strategic direction of the SANDF.
The substantial reliance on the SANDF during times of extreme need ought to be balanced with the decreasing ability of the SANDF to meet expectations because of the declining budget allocations, said the committee.
The shortcomings identified by the committee included “the clear lack of intelligence to adequately inform the security forces of the initial outbreak of violence last month”, adding that “this points to a serious concern around South Africa’s strategic intelligence capacity”.
The provision of strategic intelligence to the security services brought into question the capabilities of the strategic intelligence services and/or the platforms for intelligence-sharing, said the committee.
For the success of future SANDF and SAPS operations, South Africa required “a coherent and capable strategic intelligence capability”.
Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure a coherent and capable intelligence capability in the country, and that structures such as National Intelligence Coordinating Committee be optimised to ensure adequate intelligence provision for the SANDF missions.
As a result of the extension, the directives set out that deployed SAPS members would benefit from a fixed non-pensionable overtime allowance in terms of the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council agreement 02/2014. National police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili on Friday declined to comment on the matter.
“The deployment and remuneration of members for any operation is an operational matter that we are not at liberty to comment on in the public,” Muridili said.
However, SA Police Union (Sapu) spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said they were aware of the police deployments that were informed by the latest unrest in the country.
“Sapu was consulted at the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council on the deployments. It was through an input made by Sapu that the deployments should be declared a special event in order for members to benefit financially.
“We further initiated that there should be three shifts to cover day and night shifts. Members who are on the rest days could then work overtime and through a three-shift system, members would not be stretched. Seemingly, it was not considered by management as the two-shift system was implemented,” Thobakgale said.
He said the union was unaware of the non-payment of senior management service members and reservists who have been deployed.
Richard Mamabolo, spokesperson for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, said they were not consulted on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mary de Haas, the veteran researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal school of law, attributed the recent spate of violence to the incompetency and lack of proactive planning by the police department.
Speaking to City Press yesterday, De Haas said the police were not prepared for last month’s violence because they did not have proper intelligence structures and well-trained personnel. The police should have an ongoing plan of action, she said, adding that the national police commissioner was to blame because the buck stops with him.
“Why I’m saying the police were ill-prepared is because, from the beginning, they didn’t call for reinforcements or help from the army in time and, while still at it, one was propelled to ask about the whereabouts of the metro police.
“I know metro police get a lot of casters [many bodies or personnel who do not have powers to make arrests] and are not the police, but they can provide back-up during such times,” said De Haas.
She reckoned that in most areas, the SAPS didn’t even call the public order policing unit for reinforcements and they had no water cannons.
“In the chain of command, a decisive decision was not taken in time because the regional commissioner was waiting for the provincial commissioner, who, in turn, was awaiting a proper plan of action from the national police commissioner.
“The national police commissioner and the police minister are the only ones who would have gone to the president and asked for the SANDF’s back-up right at the beginning of the looting,” she said.
De Haas said she did a lot of research and called many police stations to ask questions about their intervention plans, but was met with very few answers.
“Another problem in KwaZulu-Natal is that many police officers are conflicted because of their association with gang members and drug lords, while some are pro-Zuma. This is a serious concern because government employees are not supposed to be serving individuals, but the state,” she said.