SA has an insufficient number of public order police officers: Sitole

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National Police Commissioner Kehla Sitole has told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that the country has an insufficient number of public order police officers.

He’s testifying in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, at the commission’s hearings into the July civil unrest.

Sithole says that there are only above 5 000 public order officers countrywide, while the ideal is about 12 000.

Over 350 people died and there were billions of rands’ worth of damage during the widespread unrest that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The Commission questioned Sitole about the lapses in his department during the unrest. He said that manpower and resources of the public order policing units had been cut since 1995.

He was questioned: “You have just mentioned the ideal number should be 12 000 members, so you are in essence agreeing that you don’t have sufficient capacity in this very important unit that is tasked with managing gatherings and crown management?”

Sitole replied: “I am agreeing Sir and we are actually presently working on building gear capacity, but I’m sure you will also understand that during the transformation of the whole service starting 1995, then there was a scale-down of the capacity in this particular unit.”

Social media

Sithole has described the unrest as the first of its kind in South African history adding that it had a technological component through the use of social media.

He says, “It was a planned gathering with an unpredicted modus operandi, I think the planners of the July unrest,  they first invented a new modus operandi and they thereafter executed it, but it was the first modus operandi of its kind and it was lifted very high like for instance, the July unrest is the first unrest that started directly at level 3. It did not start at level 1 and 2.”

SAHRC hearing into the July unrest: