Law enforcement agencies, led by the South African Police Service, were deployed in and around the Tshwane Central Business District (CBD) precinct from 18:00 on Tuesday, 1 November 2016 to 22:00 on Wednesday, 2 November 2016 to monitor and police a night vigil, a gathering and marches relating to the so-called State Capture Report and Save SA campaign. All three events had been authorised subject to agreed-upon conditions which were stipulated to ensure the safety of participants and bystanders and to ensure security at the events.
Two of these events, namely the gathering at the St Albans Cathedral and a march from Princess Park to the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court, both in the CBD, were peaceful and without incident.
Unfortunately the third event, which included a night vigil and a march by Economic Freedom Front (EFF) supporters, was in many instances marred by incidents of damage to property, looting, public violence, intimidation and attacks on the police.
Despite the fact that the EFF march was authorised to take place from Church Square to the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court only, and there was a commitment towards a peaceful march, the group contravened the conditions of the approval and converged on the Union Buildings, a National Key Point. There, the crowd behaved in an extremely unruly manner, attempted to force their way through the police line and onto the premises without success and hurled objects at the police members on duty. The police responded accordingly to restore order.
From early on Wednesday morning, before 06:00, sporadic incidents of violence and criminality occurred which included, inter alia, stones being thrown at vehicles and windows of premises, the looting of stores (most notably food and liquor outlets but including clothing and sportswear stores as well as an hotel), barricading of roads, the disruption of traffic and physical attacks on police members on duty. One member, a captain, was seriously injured at about 15:30 yesterday next to the Union Buildings when he was attacked in a police vehicle and hit in the face so violently with a glass bottle that the bottle shattered. He underwent surgery last night after sustaining several deep cuts to his facial area which resulted in his nose being half-severed and the cortex of his eye being damaged. He is recovering in hospital and our thoughts are with him and his family. We know of at least one other officer, also a captain, having sustained an injury to his leg from being stoned and he was treated at a nearby clinic. We also wish him a speedy recovery. These unfortunate incidents, which resulted in members of the service being injured, are regrettable and must be condemned by all of us. The attacks/killing of members of the South African Police Service are attacks on the authority of the State. We urge all people, including those actively participating in protests, to work together with the SAPS in ensuring peaceful protests and/or marches.
SAPS management and surely all law-abiding citizens are outraged by the behaviour exhibited by certain elements in the streets of Pretoria yesterday, which can only be described as outright hooliganism. 28 arrests were made and more arrests in relation to various charges such as malicious damage to property, public violence, burglary and assault are likely as 35 cases have been registered and are under investigation.
It is our contention that convenors of gatherings must be accountable for the actions of their supporters and the SAPS is investigating yesterday’s illegal gathering, the conduct of the crowd and alleged incitement of leaders. The police’s resources, already deployed for long hours across the province in terms of the #FeesMustFall protest actions for over a month, were severely stretched. We can commend our members for containing the situation under extreme provocation and difficult conditions, while still maintaining day-to-day policing in all Pretoria clusters. The citizens of Pretoria, particularly those working or living in the CBD, Sunnyside and Arcadia areas, were inconvenienced and alarmed by the unruly conduct of the gathering.
We also commend all law enforcement agencies, including the Tshwane Metro Police, for their commitment, cooperation and support, as well as all officials from other government departments and stakeholders who gathered and worked in a coordinated manner at the National Joint Operational Centre (NatJoc), where the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure meets to coordinate operations. We were pleased to note the presence of role players from business at the NatJoc yesterday, who contributed throughout the day.
We have stated that our Back to Basics approach involves encouraging cooperation and partnerships and one of the positive outcomes of our operations yesterday was the high level of support, cooperation and coordination experienced.
We are satisfied with the police planning and the management of operations which led to the maintenance of order and stability yesterday. We continuously review our performance following operations of this magnitude. Best practices and lessons learned are shared with all role players with the view to ensuring improved performance in future operations. An area where shortcomings were identified was around the obligations and accountability of the organisers, which situation will be addressed during future negotiations.
We commend the people of Tshwane for having worked well with law enforcement during this period. The SAPS strongly disapproves of the acts of criminality which characterised a part of the protest action of yesterday. Those that have been arrested will be processed through the criminal justice system. The South African Police Service will continue to contribute towards the creation of a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa.