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Remarks by the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP at the passing out parade of Crowd Management trainees, SAPS Tshwane Training Academy .

Recently, our country has experienced a growing number of protest actions and unrest which, in some instances, has been accompanied by serious provocation, intimidation, public violence and even elements of criminality.

The main challenge for the SAPS is to respond to these manifestations within the spirit and context of a community orientated policing model and the Bill of Rights. This requires a realistic balance between acknowledging the rights of citizens to demonstrate versus the police’s need to ensure peace and stability.

In August 2011, we embarked on a process to amend our Public Order Policing policy. The policy aims to provide a framework with guidelines for the SAPS in reviewing and aligning its operational strategies and instructions applicable to policing of public protest and major events with a view of minimizing provocation, intimidation and violence.

The objectives of this policy are to:

  • promote ideal crowd control and management capacity within the police in order to secure public trust and maintenance of safety during public gatherings;
  • provide a framework and facilitate the development of appropriate guidelines by the SAPS on the use of force in relation to crowd control and management that adheres to internationally accepted standards;
  • establish the principle of intervention in controlling public protest in order to proportionate the means of force that can be applied by the police;
  • facilitate the introduction of appropriate training initiatives, which must address the principle of “first responder”, guide SAPS operational planning and response, resource deployment and physical execution.  

Since the policy was finalized we have focused on number of areas regarding our public order policing. Some of these include; capacitation of Public Order Policing units, working on improving the type of equipment available to our Public Order Policing units and working to enhancing our intelligence capacity.

One of the key components of the policy is to ensure that we are constantly improving our training with regard to public order policing.

I am therefore honored to address this important event to acknowledge and celebrate the first phase of our training of 946 Metro police and TRT men and women who have spent the past three weeks learning about the vitally important discipline of crowd management.

During this time you have received training in crucial areas of crowd management including;

  • how the Constitution and the Bill of Rights impact on our approach to crowd management,
  • legal instruments affecting crowd management with particular emphasis on the Regulation of Gathering Act, the Dangerous Weapons Act and use of force prescripts.
  • the importance of and approaches to negotiation tactics and,
  • strategy and tactics to be used in crowd management

The training that you as graduates have received is aligned with the training SAPS officers working at Public Order Police units get.

Based on this training it is our sincere hope that both the Metro Police and TRT members who have attended this training will now be able to work side-by-side with Public Order Police members. This will happen with us secured in the knowledge that they have received the necessary training, skills and techniques.

After today’s ceremony, newly trained members will return to their units and institutions and will be able to be deployed in support of mainstream Public Order Police units when and where necessary.

Importantly, this three-week training course is a beginning rather than an end. We are, between now and mid-April, going to be training another group of SAPS and Metro Police members as well as Platoon Commanders.

In addition, some officers have completed a training course that will allow them to present a First Responder for Crowd Gathering course. This course is to be rolled out to at least two members per SAPS Police Station before 7 May 2014. I think you will agree with me that this training programme will significantly contribute to ensuring both SAPS and Metro police members effect peaceful crowd management and control.

Our duty is to make South Africa a safe place for every honest person. This means that we must ensure our policing doesn’t contribute to, or exaggerate tension during protests; and that policing does not generate the very violence it seeks to control during public protests.

It is no coincidence that we are training SAPS members and Metro police at the same time. We believe that this will help to ensure that the various law enforcement agencies can work together constructively and well during public order policing operations. Although command and control during joint operations will be the responsibility of the SAPS, the training of Metro police officers will assist the SAPS as a force multiplier.  

This programme aims to provide additional training to SAPS and Metro Police in crowd control and is part of a much broader goal of professionalizing the public order policing.

From now on, all new SAPS members will undergo basic crowd management training as part of their basic training. We believe that this is a fundamental step in fulfilling the objectives of our policy.

We also need to acknowledge that there are still many hurdles to overcome. For instance, we face specific challenges around securing convictions after arresting perpetrators during violent public protests.

We have seen on many occasions, protests during which serious provocation of the police and other innocent people, intimidation, public violence and even criminality, yet when police arrest the perpetrators at the scene, we are subsequently unable to secure convictions in court because witnesses fail to come forward to give evidence.

We urge all law-abiding citizens that have information about wrongdoing at protests to come forward with information so that we arrest the perpetrators. If we are to effectively police the community, the community in turn must help us.  It is as much in their interest to do so as it is ours.

Equally protest organisers must be aware that they have a legal responsibility to ensure events proceed in an orderly and peaceful way.

South Africa fought long and hard for democracy and we have a moral duty to protect it.  It is in the interest of all of us to create a society where orderly, peaceful protests can take place without any negative incident.  We call on ordinary South Africans who participate in public events or protests, not to carry dangerous weapons. We urge them to exercise their right to protest, but to do so peacefully without damaging property, or attacking police or other innocent people.

At the same time, the police must conduct themselves in a professional manner and to reflect both the letter and spirit of our Public Order policing policy.

Organisers and police need to work together to prevent the repeat of the kind of clashes we have witnessed recently.  Violence at protest events undermine the rule of law, which is the cornerstone of our constitutional democracy.

In conclusion, I am delighted to be here today to witness for myself the excellent progress we are making in our endeavor to upskill our law enforcement officers in Public Order Policing. Whether the public events are meant for celebrations or protests all must proceed in a lawful manner and we will be on the correct path to meet our mandate of protecting and serving the people of South Africa.

For enquiries, please contact:

Ms Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane
Acting Chief of Staff: Ministry of Police (0820435732) OR
Lieutenant General Mawela,(0825754675)
Divisional Commissioner for Operational Response Services within the SAPS

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