Today I visited various university campuses in Gauteng and immediately thereafter consulted with the Gauteng SAPS management team.
I have directed that, with immediate effect, senior managers in the province are to take personal control of police actions relating to the student protests at the universities under the banner of #FeesMustFall.
It was also decided that a Deputy National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Gary Kruser, will oversee all planning and management processes relating to the present spate of student protest action in the province.
During the meeting, we emphasised our standpoint that SAPS members deployed during these protests should exercise maximum restraint. At the same time, they must also exercise their duties in terms of our Constitutional mandate, which includes the maintenance of stability within the country and upholding the law.
SAPS management calls on students and student leaders to consider their actions and to refrain from making inflammatory remarks. We need to, and the SAPS is prepared to, engage in meaningful dialogue to reach a common objective. Our ultimate goal is the de-escalation of violence while upholding the right to peaceful and lawful protest. Some statements being made and actions taken are having the opposite effect. Consideration must be given to the long-term implications of senseless destruction and violence. Arson, throwing stones and firing rubber bullets cannot in any way be perceived to be the solution. Any injuries caused to date, to students, police members and other bystanders is regrettable.
The SAPS outright rejects utterances made and broadcast today claiming that we are a “blood-thirsty” organisation, “seeking another Marikana”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The nay-sayers are undoubtedly disappointed that the SAPS has not fired live ammunition and our members are strictly prohibited from doing so.
University management, political leaders and other formations are requested be clear on their respective roles and to act on agreements made during discussions and meetings.
As an organisation, the SAPS’s resources are being stretched. There are other protests taking place in the Province which also have to be policed to ensure the safety of our citizens. In addition, importantly, we have to address our key responsibilities of preventing, detecting and combating crime and it is a pity that we have to re-direct our valuable resources to police violent protect action. Our members are being injured during the course of their duties. A female constable was transported to hospital today and our Employee Health and Wellness practitioners were called out as it is traumatic to be confronted by stone-throwing individuals insulting you assaulting you day-in and day-out.
The SAPS will deploy to any area in the country where the law is being broken and stability threatened, and this includes the universities. We will not hesitate to take action, albeit with minimum force, to arrest those breaking the law and instigating others to violence. We also find deplorable the actions of those resorting to exposing themselves as an attempt to detract police officers.
I have advised operational commanders to ensure that the media is permitted to do their work freely, although within the bounds of safety. Actions such as deleting photographs will not be tolerated. In return, we ask of the media to allow our members to do their duties and to report fairly on situations at the universities.
Today, 17 arrests were made relating the violation of a court order and public violence. Those arrested will appear in court tomorrow.
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