Lack of police manpower in the field of public order policing has been overtaken by a rapid increase in community protests, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Johan Burger said yesterday.
Several parts of the country, mostly Gauteng, have for a couple of weeks now been gripped by some community protests which have also been marred by incidents of violence and destruction of property.
Apart from the protests, which have mainly been sparked by what residents termed a “lack of service delivery” in their respective areas, there has also been a surge in violence against women and children and, according to Burger, an unnecessary burden has now been placed on the police.
“With the increase in the violent community protests, the police are now forced to divert their resources from fighting serious crime and this allows criminals more freedom.
“There is currently a general sense of instability and unlawfulness in the country to an extent where it seems that South Africa is losing control of itself,” he said.
Burger said there are currently not enough public order policing officers.
There were more than 7 000 trained officers in 2006, but this number was trimmed to 2 000 by the then police minister Jackie Selebi.
Burger stressed that the police ministry has not managed to return to the manpower levels of 2006 and that over the last 10 years, the levels of violent protests have increased by more than 400%. “Every year, on average, we have witnessed between 14 000 and 15 000 protests.
Also during the second half of last year, we have seen a huge increase in violent protests, especially when the #FeesMustFall protests by students from various institutions of higher learning were demanding free tertiary education for all,” said Burger.
He said there is a need for the re-establishment of the country’s political, economic and social stability.
“Police officers are expected to be more effective in the fight against crime, but they have been unfairly burdened.” he said.