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Free State Agriculture (FSA) has expressed its concern about the police’s ‘witch hunt’ on members of the public who were trying to protect themselves during the unrest in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng. According to Francois Wilken, president of FSA, Police Minister, Bheki Cele’s recent statements in the media are worrying and disappointing. Cele announced that the police’s focus on the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has shifted to criminal investigations into the so-called civilians who tried to protect themselves in the unrest, rather than investigating why the Police did not fulfill its mandate as contained in the Constitution and South African Police Act (Act 68 of 1995). Wilken says that the 5 core pillars of the police law specifically state that the police maintain domestic stability, the implementation of law and order, protection of citizens and their property as well as the prevention of crime. “Given the unrest that took place in the two provinces, the inability of the police was completely pointed out.”
Tommie Esterhuyse, vice-president of FSA, states that the 8 pillars of the Rural Safety Strategy that were revised in 2019, place great focus on the ability of the SAPS with regard to capacity, manpower, equipment and logistical capabilities (firearms and ammunition) which, given the current status quo, fall very short in protecting the rural areas and farming communities from increased crime. “The uncertainty and mistrust of the public about how the police controlled the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has further increased among the general public and the rural areas. The impact and extent of the unrest is enormous, not only to the economy, but also in terms of the affordability of food for the ordinary citizen.” says Esterhuyse.
According to Jakkals le Roux, chairman of the FSA’s Rural Safety Committee, it would appear that the Minister wants to make the law-abiding citizen / public the enemy who has no rights to protect him / herself because the police realize that they do not fulfill their legal obligation towards the general public. FSA is further concerned about the political “interference” in the execution of the police’s operational mandate and accountability that is currently playing out between the Minister and the top structure of the SAPS.
The unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng once again raises the question of how the reasonable man will defend and protect himself in unrest related situations as well as in an increased criminal onslaught, if the police’s wheels’ fall off? This means that the general citizenry is self-reliant to look after their own safety.