The eThekwini Municipality has ordered four Casspir armoured personnel carriers from state-owned defence company Denel Mechem, and will use them for crowd control in Durban and surrounding areas.
The vehicles are in production by Mechem, a division of the Denel Group that specialises in mine-resistant vehicles, trained dogs and mine/explosive ordnance detection and disposal, amongst others.
News of the purchase emerged from a report tabled for the city’s executive council on 27 June covering tender awards made by the city in May, reports The Mercury. The contract for the four vehicles was worth R19.9 million.
The municipality’s chief financial officer, Krish Kumar, told The Mercury that “It is hard for our vehicles now to get into those (riot) situations,” and the Casspirs would make dealing with riots easier. They will also be used to deal with land invasions.
Deliveries are expected later this year to the Crowd Management Unit of the Metro Police.
“These vehicles will assist the Metro Police to carry out their duties while ensuring effective policing for crowd management deployment to ensure the safety of police members in riotous situations when rocks or petrol bombs are thrown,” said eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa in a statement.
Various protests have taken place around eThekwini recently, for example a violent protest at the beginning of June and a protest against high taxi prices that blockaded roads in late May.
A number of municipalities across South Africa have acquired armoured vehicles as part of efforts to deal with crime and violence. For example, on 8 February last year the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD) took delivery of three RG-12 Nyala armoured internal security vehicles from Denel Land Systems. The Nyalas cost R2.3-million each.
Tshwane executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the vehicles would be used to address political and social protests as well as service delivery protests that could turn violent, and project the numerous diplomatic missions in Pretoria.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), meanwhile, recently took delivery of two WP1800 crowd control vehicles manufactured by TFM and DefensePak. The first was delivered in December 2015 and the second in February 2016, with another two planned.
The WP1800 is based on a commercial MAN chassis and has space for eight people. It is fitted with crowd control equipment that includes a less-lethal grenade launcher, night vision camera and acoustic device that can broadcast pre-recorded audio messages or disorient people.
According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), from January to the end of April 2017, the ISS Public Violence Monitor recorded at least 261 major protests across South Africa – a 50% increase in the number of incidents over the same period last year. This year’s figures show an average of more than two protests a day.
Since 2013, the ISS Public Violence Monitor has found that more than half of all protests reported escalated into violence.