A taste of teargas at defenceWeb’s Public Order conference


Public order professionals will have an opportunity to see, experience and ask about the latest generation crowd control munitions at the defenceWeb’s Public Order Policing conference at Gallagher Estate on 3 – 4 October.

Lead sponsor Rheinmetall Denel Munitions has been granted special permission to demonstrate various “sound and flash” grenades as well as “teargas” munitions at the event.

Conference organiser Colonel David Peddle (Retired) says Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa will be the keynote speaker. He notes a significant factor in the violence that nowadays seem to accompany most public protests is the belief that letters, memorandums and queries are ignored by an unfeeling local government and that causing a ruckus is the only way to get noticed.
“Many of the protests involve attacks on public infrastructure and the blocking of roads, actions which invariably bring the demonstrators face-to-face with police,” he says.

Mthethwa in August approved a new crowd control policy for the police. “The policy and guidelines must guide the SAPS in developing appropriate, effective operational strategies and systems in the policing of public protests which must restore and enhance confidence of the communities,” Mthethwa said.

The policy calls for the re-establishment of a dedicated National Public Order Policing (POPs) unit within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Research conducted during the formulation of the policy showed that police personnel were inadequately trained in crowd management and control. Mthethwa noted that success in any public protest situation is dependent on a strong line of command and control. “SAPS commanders must have negotiation skills and be able to use these skills during gatherings. In the case of a planned gathering, the commanders must be able to negotiate with the organisers of the gathering, or the person nominated for this purpose, as and when required or necessary. In the event of an unplanned gathering, commanding officers must be able to identify key leaders from the group with whom they can negotiate.”

The police ministry said that in cases of spontaneous public protests, each province must facilitate the development of contingency plans up to police station level or at least cluster level. Mthethwa said that police reaction to protests has been uncoordinated while there seems to be no purpose on the side of the SAPS but solely to guard the protest.
“Firstly, the SAPS must introduce measures to ensure cordoning off of certain areas and restrict the protest to routes and areas less significant and minimum opportunity for damage to property or threats to the person. Secondly, the SAPS must employ the best possible formation to prevent provocation; target leaders of the pack for later interrogation and ensure that each protest is covered by video recording. This might come in handy during case investigation or for identifying possible perpetrators in criminal cases,” he added.

The police ministry emphasised the importance of ensuring all the required and necessary equipment is procured. The minimum equipment required includes body armour and helmets, shields, batons, water cannons (some already procured for crowd control during the 2010 FIFA World Cup), armoured vehicles (some of the current fleet needs replacement) as well as specified calibre firearms and ammunition. Another important area of equipment is video surveillance equipment. “The use of such video equipment will not only assist the police in securing prosecutions where criminal acts occur but will also allow the police to make use of material gathered during the videoing of such events for training and debriefings,” the ministry said.

Intelligence is an important factor in the success of public order policing. A threat analysis must be conducted throughout the country to identify protest hotspots, stated the policy.

The ministry said that whilst the police have a responsibility to police public protest, gatherings and events, the Gatherings Act conferred considerable responsibilities on conveners or organisers of events to ensure that such events are carried out in an orderly and peaceful manner and that any contravention of this must result in the organisers facing criminal charges.

For more on this subject, consider attending defenceWeb‘s Public Order Policing conference at Gallagher Estate on October 3-4.

For more information contact Maggie Pienaar at ++27 11 807 3294 or [email protected]

A detailed programme is available here.