Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) is adamant that officers in Nkandla in the north of KwaZulu-Natal handled last weekend’s volatile situation responsibly.

Scores of former president Jacob Zuma supporters gathered outside his homestead following an urgent court application for a stay of his arrest pending a Constitutional Court application.  The Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma to 15 months imprisonment for ignoring its ruling that he continue his testimony before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

POPCRU spokesperson Richard Mamabolo says officers were provoked at some stage but did not retaliate.

“The situation could have escalated to an extent where certain people could have been injured or killed and that would have been blamed on police. It is quite important before the police could act they need to assess the situation and of course, I am aware the police intelligence were deployed at Nkandla so they found out that it would be risky to react.”

Policing and crime expert David Bruce says officers in Nkandla face a dilemma on whether to enforce level four lockdown regulations or de-escalate a rather tense situation.

VIDEO | Unpacking events that unfolded in Nkandla:

Bruce says police are in a tight spot.

“In some ways, it is a no-win situation that on the one hand, police could so vigorously enforce the law and arrest people for breaking the lockdown provisions. But in so doing it is likely that there would be lives lost in the process of doing that.”

“So on the other hand now, they are not directly enforcing the law right now, on people who are breaking the lockdown provisions. There is a possibility that as a result that this gathering at Nkandla is in effect, turning into a type of a major type of super spreader event. So it is possible that as things unfold this will lead to the pandemic intensifying in KwaZulu-Natal,” explains Bruce.

AfriForum criticises police minister

Meanwhile, lobby organisation AfriForum has criticised Police Minister Bheki Cele and his department for what it calls the double standards of law enforcement at Zuma’s home in Nkandla. Around 1 000 people gathered in Nkandla at the past weekend, to show their support for Zuma. This is despite current lockdown restrictions which prohibit mass gatherings. Cele says police did not arrest anyone in Nkandla because they had restrained themselves to avoid bloodshed.

AfriForum’s Jacques Broodryk, “South Africans have been fed up for a while with these drastic restrictions that destroy lives. Now that it has become clear that certain people do not have to take notice of these restrictions, more people will follow the lead and do the same. The fact that Zuma has not yet been arrested and instead receives special treatment from the highest courts in the country, emphasises yet again that some people are more equal than others. And I’m afraid this will lead to a broad disregard of the law.”

Zuma court application

The High Court in Pietermaritzburg is today expected to hear the former president’s urgent application for a stay of his arrest pending his application in the Constitutional Court next week.

Zuma has compared his 15-month jail term to a death sentence.

He made the comment during a media briefing at his home at Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday night.

VIDEO | Zuma’s press briefing: