South African Protests and violence are becoming more frequent and intense as the police admit they lack sufficient manpower to cope with the situation.
As the local-government elections approaches, a leading criminologist says the situation might get worse.
The idea of public order policing has been set aside for scrutiny since the killing of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012.
As conceded by police management in parliament yesterday, the service did not have enough public order officers to deal with the increasing South African protests.
Note: The police requested for an additional R3.3 billion to increase public order policing numbers and equipment in 2014 which the Treasury turned down.
It has recently been announced that R598-million will be spent on public order policing over the next three years, which is yet to be set into motion.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola presented before parliament’s police portfolio committee, 11 unrest hotspots which had recently been identified in the country, a few of which include:
~Grabouw – where residents protested against evictions, set fire to a traffic department building.
~Hammanskraal – where two men were killed and six critically hurt in another eviction protest on Monday.
~Vaal University of Technology – where more buildings were burnt as students protested against the suspension and arrest of other protesting students.
~Fort Hare University – where students also burnt buildings as they protested about the catering, housing and travel allowances.
~Vuwani, Limpopo- where residents kepts students at home by destroying 21 schools in protests against a new municipal demarcation. Learning is gradually coming back to the community through the help of mobile classrooms.
Masemola said more than 600 public order police officers had been deployed to the hotspots.
Some of the violence has been staged for political reasons, it has been alleged.
In the midst of lack of resources, Masemola said police will be deployed to the aforementioned hot spots pending when the elections are over.
A researcher with the Institute for Security Studies Johan Burger said the police will not provide solution to this challenge as he pushed the blame to the decisions taken by former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi in 2006.
The former commissioner was responsible for reducing the number of public order police officers from 7,500 to 2,500.
Recently, the number has been increased to 4,700 which is still below what is needed.
“In 2014 the police said that by 2018 the number will be increased to 9,000 members but this process hasn’t started properly.”
The researcher made an important finding which points out that another major problem with the South African protests was that the violence often start on factors and reasons that are beyond the control of the police.
Most times those protesting for poor service delivery are often backed by genuine reasons for their agitations.
“People become violent because they believe it’s the only way to attract attention to their concerns.”