Police Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale told MPs that in recent weeks the police had experienced moments which were unprecedented in the history of the country and had done their best to cope with events that they were not prepared for.
Cape Town – Police Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale said on Friday that in recent weeks the SAPS have experienced moments which were unprecedented in the history of the country.
“We have encountered a moment none of us thought would ever happen, where we had to act against a former head of state, in this case former president Jacob Zuma, for a sentence meted out by the Constitutional Court,” Mathale said.
Mathale made the statement when he appeared before the police portfolio committee where the SAPS will brief it on their response to the violence that has plagued KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
He said of the five-day period culminating in Zuma being locked up in Estcourt prison that everybody appreciated the approach SAPS adopted in dealing with a difficult and volatile situation, as the people dispersed without shedding blood.
“Despite the provocative stance by agents provocateurs, who were part of that action, police maintained a position that made it possible for that situation to be managed in the manner it was.”
He added that during the three days leading to Zuma’s imprisonment, SAPS had to comply with the dictates of court to ensure law was respected by everybody.
“We carried out that task, which was given, in a dignified manner without any incident.”
Mathale said this unprecedented moment led to a public reaction in the days after Zuma’s imprisonment that police and other authorities could not have anticipated.
“We could have acted better than we did under the circumstances. We commend the role of SAPS and security forces that we did not go into a slippery slope which has no end” (sic).
He also said there was some kind of normalcy now thanks to the work by SAPS, South Africans, community members and leaders who rose to the occasion as the looting unfolding and was contained in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng without spilling to other areas.
“Ordinary South Africans stood as the last line of defence as what was unfolding was brought to an end.”
Mathale also commended President Cyril Ramaphosa’s intervention in ensuring leadership and deploying the SANDF to complement the work of SAPS.
“We are not over this and we appreciate the stance the committee has taken when you indicated you are not going to sit back and be armchair critics but get on to ground.”
Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson had at the start of the meeting said she would not allow the meeting to be turned into “lamentations” and the highlighting of police weaknesses in handling the protests.
Mathale urged all categories of public representatives to come to the party together with communities and the private sector to mobilise and not allow lawlessness to establish itself
“This must be brought to an end. We can succeed if we work together,” he said. “We understand the challenges and appreciate the response of the men and women in blue despite the fact that they could have done more and better.
“We don’t want to downplay the mammoth task, and the manner they responded contributed to normalisation,” Mathale said.