Police Minister Bheki Cele says police should not have used water cannons to maintain social distancing among people who were queuing outside the Bellville South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices last month.
South Africans had taken to social media to call on Cele to call the South African Police Service (Saps) to order following the treatment of vulnerable people who were there to renew their grant applications.
Addressing the media during his visit to several police stations in the Western Cape on Wednesday, Cele said: “The issue here was social distancing. That social distancing didn’t need the approach we used. That approach was for people that are rioting. Yes, we did not use stun grenades but we did use water cannons. Those were for people that were rioting, so we should not have really done that,” he said.
“Then you find people who are going there for leisure, who decide to sit there to defy the law.
“I’m saying that police on this one really dropped the ball and did what we are not supposed to do. We are here to try and correct that.”
The treatment of vulnerable people outside the Sassa offices received even more criticism after the same was not extended to about 500 people who staged a protest against the beach ban in Muizenberg recently.
Cele told officers to enforce the law equally, regardless of race, class or social standing.
WATCH] Minister Cele speaks out on the incident that saw @SAPoliceService using water cannons on vulnerable people outside the #Bellville #SASSA offices. He also adds his voice on the #beachProtest. Cele has called for a full report on the two incidents & accountability. pic.twitter.com/SqIcGkShVp
— Lirandzu Themba (@LirandzuThemba) February 3, 2021
Meanwhile, Western Cape MEC for community safety Albert Fritz says the report he received on the Sassa incident was “a redacted, partial account of what took place, omitting to provide the detail on various answers to questions asked”.
“The report provided fails to answer the substantive elements of my enquiry regarding who requested the deployment of Saps’ POP [public order policing] unit, which resources were mobilised and why it was necessary to deploy the resources used, including a water cannon.
“From the response provided, it is unclear to me who made the request for a POP deployment and why it was deemed necessary to have a water cannon present at a ministerial visit,” said Fritz.
Fritz said he would request a report on future deployments.