Metro cops slammed over fes­ti­val chaos

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By JEFF WICKS, GRAEME HOSKEN and ALEX PA­TRICK

● In­ep­ti­tude, negligence and “dere­lic­tion of duty” by the Jo­han­nes­burg metro po­lice depart­ment (JMPD) have been blamed for the chaos and vi­o­lence that fol­lowed last Sun­day’s Global Ci­ti­zen Fes­ti­val.

The JMPD’s bungling — which be­gan with of­fi­cers ar­riv­ing nearly seven hours late to start clos­ing roads around FNB Sta­dium — could see tru­ant of­fi­cers and those who called the shots criminally charged un­der leg­is­la­tion put in place af­ter the 2001 El­lis Park disas­ter in which 43 peo­ple died.

Road clo­sures were sup­posed to be­gin at mid­night on Satur­day, but sources said by 9am on Sun­day many JMPD of­fi­cers were still not on duty, and by noon pri­vate se­cu­rity guards were sum­moned in an at­tempt to sta­bilise a “chaotic” sit­u­a­tion.

The Sun­day Times has es­tab­lished that a de­tailed traf­fic man­age­ment plan — which had been used for ear­lier con­certs and soc­cer der­bies at FNB Sta­dium — was aban­doned by JMPD of­fi­cers in com­mand.

Af­ter 58 heads of state and celebri­ties were safely es­corted from the con­cert, help­less fes­ti­val­go­ers stranded in grid­locked traf­fic faced brazen at­tacks by crim­i­nals who “lurked like wolves” with no po­lice in sight.

Chief su­per­in­ten­dent Wayne Min­naar of the JMPD de­clined to re­spond in de­tail to the charges, say­ing only that they had been “es­ca­lated to parliament”. The City of Jo­han­nes­burg de­nied that of­fi­cers did any­thing wrong.

But sev­eral sources said the fail­ure of metro po­lice to im­ple­ment road clo­sures and the traf­fic man­age­ment plan was the cat­a­lyst for what went wrong. They said:

● Cer­tain roads were not closed at pre­scribed times;

● Re­sources were not de­ployed to key lo­ca­tions at pre­scribed times;

● A ded­i­cated three-lane en­try and exit traf­fic plan on Nas­rec Road was not im­ple­mented;

● Crit­i­cal road clo­sures were changed, pre­vent­ing buses ac­cess­ing ded­i­cated routes; and

● Crit­i­cal roads that had been closed were re­opened pre­ma­turely.

As a re­sult, in­com­ing traf­fic met the out­go­ing traf­fic and the grid­lock took sev­eral hours to un­tan­gle. Con­cert­go­ers could not con­nect with trans­port op­er­a­tors and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials could not ad­e­quately re­spond to crim­i­nal in­ci­dents.

Jacques Grobbe­laar, CEO of Sta­dium Man­age­ment SA, which runs FNB Sta­dium, said the JMPD had ar­rived late and its de­par­ture from the plan was “crim­i­nal”.

The depart­ment was sup­posed to start clos­ing roads at mid­night, he said, but the first of­fi­cers only ar­rived af­ter 6am. This was con­firmed by sev­eral sources, as well as by City of Jo­han­nes­burg may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for safety Michael Sun, who said the JMPD started its op­er­a­tions at 6am.

Grobbe­laar said: “They never fol­lowed the plans and, by their in­ac­tion, placed in­no­cent lives at risk. The plan was signed off by the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, and once that is done you can­not de­vi­ate from it be­cause ul­ti­mately all par­ties are re­spon­si­ble for their spe­cific ar­eas.”

Grobbe­laar said “many” of the 236 JMPD of­fi­cers as­signed to the event were still not on duty by 9am.

A source within the event or­gan­is­ing struc­ture, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the JMPD was sup­posed to im­ple­ment road clo­sures on Satur­day night.

“They were sup­posed to de­ploy of­fi­cers and they were sup­posed to keep road clo­sures in place,” said the source.

“They didn’t do that. They failed to im­ple­ment all of this. When the s**t hit the fan they in­ex­pli­ca­bly moved road clo­sures, cut

all the buses off and put them into the traf­fic grid­lock.

“Crim­i­nal el­e­ments lin­ger­ing around the site were sit­ting there like wolves wait­ing for sheep to be at their mercy.”

Justin van Wyk, the CEO of event pro­moter Big Con­certs, said he had writ­ten to the South African Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) to re­quest a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It has been es­tab­lished that the traf­fic man­age­ment plan was not ad­hered to, cer­tain roads were not closed at pre­scribed times and crit­i­cal road clo­sures were pre­ma­turely removed af­ter the event. The col­lec­tive re­sult was that the traf­fic man­age­ment sys­tem failed,” he said.

“A col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor is re­quired to re­store the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion as a ma­jor events des­ti­na­tion and to ensure that this never hap­pens again.”

The Safety at Sports & Recre­ational Events Act, which was passed af­ter 43 peo­ple were crushed at a Soweto derby at El­lis Park, makes pro­vi­sion for crim­i­nal charges against any par­ties that fail to mit­i­gate and man­age risks.

Sources told the Sun­day Times the act could be used against JMPD of­fi­cials and the na­tional head of pub­lic or­der polic­ing, Maj Gen Zeph Mkhwanazi, the “au­tho­rised mem­ber” of the event safety and se­cu­rity plan­ning com­mit­tee.

Grobbe­laar has writ­ten to sports minister Tokozile Xasa re­quest­ing a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the chaos and the ap­pli­ca­tion of the act.

Sun said claims that JMPD of­fi­cers ar­rived late or left early were un­true. “JMPD re­ported for duty from 6am on De­cem­ber 2 and re­mained on site until 7am on De­cem­ber 3. The ac­tual and com­plete stand-down by JMPD was be­yond 7am, where­after the usual JMPD func­tions, such as traf­fic man­age­ment, by­law en­force­ment and crime pre­ven­tion, con­tin­ued.

“JMPD ad­hered to the traf­fic man­age­ment plan which was ap­proved by [the event safety com­mit­tee]. There is no ev­i­dence that JMPD or any of the City of Jo­han­nes­burg struc­tures made any de­vi­a­tion from the said traf­fic man­age­ment plan.”

Sun said he was con­cerned about re­ports from the JMPD that the sta­dium’s sup­plier did not de­liver road clo­sure equip­ment and fenc­ing on time.

“We are fur­ther con­cerned of the re­port from JMPD that the SAPS pres­i­den­tial pro­tec­tion ser­vice over­ruled JMPD in ve­hic­u­lar ac­cess con­trol, which con­trib­uted fur­ther to the traf­fic con­ges­tion.”

SAPS spokesper­son Brig Vish Naidoo de­nied that fes­ti­val se­cu­rity plans had been changed on the day. He de­clined to an­swer spe­cific ques­tions about the event man­age­ment plan.

Uber driver Beaton Wan­jani said: “It came down to pri­vate se­cu­rity guards to try and di­rect the traf­fic. The metro po­lice were use­less. Ev­ery soc­cer game and con­cert they are there but this time there were hardly any, and those that were, were do­ing noth­ing.” Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Leonie Wag­ner

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.