The civil rights organisation AfriForum expresses serious concern over reports that allege that the SAPS withdrew from the Johannesburg CBD riots to avoid bloodshed, without making any arrests. In essence, the SAPS therewith confirmed that their tactics with regard to civil unrest and riots are limited to either responding with extreme force, or not responding at all.
“This confirms what we have always suspected and warned against for a long time – the SAPS is understaffed, underequipped and insufficiently trained to deal with civil unrest and riots in a variety of ways,” says Ian Cameron, AfriForum’s Head of Community Safety.
While other countries are increasingly moving away from the use of force in the form of shotguns with rubber bullets, the SAPS still relies heavily on this tactic to make up for a lack of tactical development. Other police services around the world meet rioters in equal or larger forces, monitor rioters and arrest the leaders to quell any unrest.
AfriForum implores the SAPS to provide the necessary change of tactics, training, equipment and staff. It will help avoid this image of lawlessness in future if the police is able to respond to riots in a myriad of ways, without having to withdraw from a situation to avoid physical confrontation. Promises of operations after the fact fail to quickly or easily erase the image of police vehicles fleeing from a riot.
Cameron concludes that ground level police cannot be blamed for the mentioned challenges, because political interference and poor leadership are the two primary causes of a crippled police service.