With January’s violent protests in Sasolburg still a fresh memory and the commission of enquiry into the tragic events of Marikana last August again underway, questions have been raised about equipping police properly do their work.
Democratic Alliance (DA) party Shadow Minister of Police Debbie Schafer said it took “at least five months as a rule” for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to be provided with essential equipment, including riot shields and pepper spray.
“This raises questions as to whether public order policing units are also under-equipped. If this was the case, their ability to effectively police volatile unrest situations, including Marikana and Sasolburg, would have been severely hampered,” she said.
According to her, it costs about R1 000 to provide a riot shield and six canisters of pepper spray to one policeman –”hardly astronomical”.
“In a country with high levels of public protests and virtually no crime intelligence input, it is essential all police officers are properly equipped to deal with these protests, which are often accompanied by violence, vandalism and looting,” she said.
SAPS policy dictates that a wide variety of equipment has to be available for public order policing, including body armour and helmets, shields, batons, water cannons, armoured vehicles, specific firearms and ammunition, video and communication equipment as well as mobile operational centres.
“It is still early in the year and we have already seen a number of violent protests across the country that police have failed to control effectively, resulting in loss of life and damage to property. This cannot be allowed to continue. We pay R62.4 billion a year for the SAPS and we deserve a fully equipped and properly trained police service to deal with these situations,” Schafer said.