Police Minister Bheki Cele has conceded that the department’s Public Order Policing (POP) unit is heavily incapacitated to deal with protests countrywide.
Cele told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday that POP units were heavily understaffed, and lacked the resources to protect infrastructure and keep citizens safe during protests
The debate comes after violent protests gripped parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last month.
“The actual human resource capability of POP is 5,892, and ideally, POP capacity for 2021/2022 financial year should be over 12,000. In this regard, the recruitment in this unit remains a priority,” said Cele.
This is a shortage of over 50%.
Cele said this was due to budget constraints and no recruitment due to effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Amid a global pandemic and budget cuts, the SAPS endeavors to meet its constitutional mandate. The SAPS is bleeding members through natural attrition, and the Covid-19 virus has resulted in the inability for the police service to take in new police recruits in 2020 and 2021,” said Cele.
“As we all know, the SAPS Compensation Budget has been significantly reduced by National Treasury over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and this has severely constrained the SAPS’s ability to address human resource capacity.”
Cele said the department was hard at work dealing with concerning issues, and as a result, has already started with the introduction of advanced technology in the force.
“To date, procurements of drones and body cameras in the POP environment will be prioritised for each unit to record videos and images during crowd management gatherings.”
“The introduction of digital evidence management will assist Public Order Policing in enhancing its communication capabilities through restoration and retrieval of evidence for investigation purposes.”
He said that “this will assist in identifying individuals carrying dangerous weapons and at the same time assist police investigations into those who participated in public violence and malicious damage to property.”