The South African Police Service in all provinces continue to monitor the situation on university campuses and to deploy our members as and where necessary, particularly those at which violent incidents have occurred. The deployment of members in and around the university precinct will remain unchanged until advised by the realisation of stability and order. Our planning and deployment measures will remain in place as long as the need exists for our presence to prevent and combat criminality, acts of violence and intimidation.
We once again would want to express our appreciation and gratitude to the members of the SAPS who, under difficult circumstances, continue to exercise maximum restraint and perform their duties with integrity, diligence and professionalism. Members are continuously directed to act within the confines of the law and apply the proportional use of force provided for in the laws of our country in the execution of their policing mandate. No amount of provocation, insults and humiliation should draw a reaction and/or behaviour contrary to the SAPS Code of Conduct. The support of management to the members of the SAPS during these trying times is guaranteed, we have an obligation to make the people of this country proud.
We deemed it fit, since our last briefing, to provide an update on the policing of the prevailing situation in the institutions of higher learning across the country.
We wish to place it on record that the SAPS has not taken over operational control of any institution of higher learning in the country. The management and security within the institutions of higher learning remain the responsibility of the university concerned. However, the SAPS will continue to execute the functions of policing as provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. In doing so, we are not going to be apologetic and cannot be intimidated by irresponsible reports and propaganda spread through the media.
On Friday night, after incidents of violence on Wits campus, a group of 30 to 50 persons literally went on the rampage in Braamfontein, stoning and setting vehicles alight. Two vehicles were torched including one belonging to the SABC. Police members attended the scene and were also pelted with stones from and bottles from the street and from the tops of buildings. Police reinforcements were called in and after the necessary police action, stability was restored in the early hours, only to be followed by incidents of the police on duty at Wits being sporadically stoned from the men’s residence on campus. Nine individuals were arrested in Braamfontein overnight, four of them verified as students.
Over the weekend, it was also reported that at about 20:30 on Friday night in KwaZulu-Natal, petrol bombs were thrown at the UKZN Howard College, resulting in the HIV Support Unit and Students Affairs offices being partially burnt. In the early hours of this morning, the cricket club house at the Nelson Mandela Metro University in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape was gutted after having been set alight.
There have been several reports of arson, petrol bomb attacks and petrol bombs or large quantities of petrol being found by SAPS members at various locations. Police vehicles have also been attacked with petrol bombs. We continue to take action to disperse students who are disrupting classes and targeting those who wish to study and write exams. It is worth noting that exams are being written in different institutions and classes are being attended. Wits, for example, has reported a 70 – 80% attendance rate.
These incidents bears testimony to our previous assertion that criminal elements or groups with their own agendas have infiltrated the #FeesMustFall initiative for their own purposes. We have also noted developing trends of protestors covering their faces to avoid being identified, IT systems being targeted on campuses and students protesting on campuses other than where they are registered to study. These are all indications of a concerted effort to conduct protest action in a violent, unlawful manner with the intention of destroying property and creating an unruly environment.
At a previous media briefing it was mentioned that police investigations are continuing into violence, criminality, intimidation and incitement and that arrests were imminent. We have made a number of arrests, some on the scenes of incidents and others as a result of investigations. To date, 567 persons have been arrested in 265 cases. By now it is well known that 32-year-old Mcebo Dlamini was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning at Wits. He appeared in a Johannesburg court today and the case has been remanded until tomorrow for a bail application. His arrest has led to allegations that the police is specifically targeting student leaders or trying to destabilise the #FeesMustFall initiative. This is untrue. The role of the police is to prevent, investigate and combat crime and to maintain stability. That is the role we are playing at universities across the country. Those who commit acts of criminality will be investigated and when sufficient evidence is obtained after a thorough investigation, arrests will be effected. We have said repeatedly that we will support those wishing to protest peacefully and lawfully and that we believe dialogue should take precedence.
Another area of concern is the latest wave of what can only be termed as a “disinformation campaign” and spreading of propaganda. Several allegations are being made via social media alleging, among other things, that female students have been attacked, assaulted and randomly shot in their residences, particularly at Wits. We have looked into these allegations and found absolutely no evidence to support them and police deployed there have vehemently denied such conduct. We therefore make an appeal that anyone who claims to have been treated in such a manner by the police should open a criminal case, provide witness names and/or evidence and allow the matter to be thoroughly investigated. IPID may be approached by anyone who alleges to have been violated by the police.
Two instances that came to light today involve a student alleging he was picked up by the police and transported to Limpopo where he was dumped in the veld. The second one alleged that he was locked in a vehicle and pepper sprayed. In both instances we urge those who were allegedly violated to approach the competent authority and lodge complaints for investigation purposes. At the same time, we urge everyone to refrain from making any irresponsible statements and creating sensation without any basis.
Trial by social media is totally inadequate and does not allow for both sides to state their cases factually and for the truth to be made known.
We once again call upon all sectors of society including amongst others parents, academics, analysts, religious and traditional leaders, to contribute towards finding a lasting solution to the current climate of instability and/or disorder. Learners, who remain our future leaders, are urged to act responsibly during protests, during which they are raising legitimate concerns. Learners are discouraged from involving themselves in criminal activities thereby risking their future by generating criminal records which will become an impediment to future employment.
We appreciate the efforts of all who are working hard towards ensuring the realisation of a safe and secure environment for all.
Members of the SAPS – we owe it to the people of our country to ensure that all people are and feel safe.