Transport strike: Where are the police?
Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police
9 October 2012
The continuing transport strike violence is yet another example of our Police Minister’s inability to maintain public order. Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in a statement that the police will “act harshly against lawlessness” but once again his words have not been translated into action.
To date, we have seen one death, countless injuries and 23 trucks burnt. This particular strike has been going on for over two weeks and yet the police have not managed to bring the criminality and violence under control.
It is well known that there is pattern to the burning of trucks, yet the police have done little to prevent this happening. These trucks represent millions of rands to the company they belong to, and yet the strike violence continues regardless of the empty promise from the Minister. Indeed, his weakness in the face of this violence has resulted in the spreading of such lawlessness.
Is this perhaps because only 418 police officers have been trained in public order policing in the last year? Or is this because the strikers have no respect for the police’s ability to take action?
Although the Department of Transport and Department of Labour should take action to ensure that this strike comes to an end, it is the SAPS’s legislative mandate to maintain public order and it is a great shame to South Africa that they have failed to do that. The TV footage of burning trucks and violent and often armed protesters are being shown around the world. The impact on our economy is and will continue to be, inordinate.
The Minister and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega have remained totally silent on the police’s inability to make arrests and contain the situation. This despite the fact that in the SAPS annual report it states that there were 11 938 protests last year, 1 194 of them violent. With a R62,4 billion budget, it is unconscionable that the SAPS is once again being caught by surprise at what is a commonplace occurrence in our country.
The DA demands that the South African public be given an update on the situation, and on who will be held to account for the destruction to property related to the transport strikes. South Africans must be reassured that those responsible for this violence will be held accountable and that the SAPS are ready for the next strike, and the next.