Western Cape sees decline in public order police officers

The number of public order police officers in the Western Cape declined from 541 in 2018 to 406 in 2020, limiting the authorities' ability to respond to the "alarming" number of reports of protest action in recent months, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said on Tuesday.

He called on provincial police to increase its allocation to the unit and to establish an additional team in the Western Cape, saying:

"Overall, the Western Cape has 9.8% fewer resources compared to four other provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Eastern Cape. The Western Cape only has three POP units which serve Cape Town, Paarl and George. This is concerning as it constrains our officers' ability to respond timeously where the threat is not located nearby to these units.

In Cape Town alone, he said 55 protests were reported between 1 August and 29 August, predominantly in Kraaifontein, Khayelitsha, Hout Bay and Bellville South.

Fritz said he had a "fruitful engagement" last month with national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, and provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata on the spate of land occupations in the province.

He said he requested that additional resources be allocated to the province to improve its response.

"POP is an essential policing service as they are a specialised unit within SAPS, which provide effective crowd management capabilities. They are trained on the utilisation of rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades to manage crowds.

"The unit polices sports events, concerts, festivals, VIP visits, marches, public unrest, gatherings, pickets, service delivery protests and strikes and are therefore essential in ensuring stability and calm within our province."

Fritz said police in 2014 proposed to increase the number of officers from 4 563 to 9 522 nationally. The number of units would also increase from 28 to 54 across South Africa.

"The ideal number of officers nationally is 11 000 which indicated a shortfall of 50.1% in 2018. We must ensure that SAPS in the Western Cape are fully capacitated and able to respond where they are needed."

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