Po­lice as weak as its lead­er­ship

The Herald (South Africa) - - Opinion & Analysis - VUYO MVOKO

As scores of vic­tims and sur­vivors on Mon­day morn­ing be­gan re­count­ing their hor­ror ex­pe­ri­ences of what hap­pened af­ter the Global Ci­ti­zen Fes­ti­val: Man­dela 100 event on so­cial me­dia, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio sta­tions, it was left to one Vish Naidoo, a se­nior and well­re­mu­ner­ated pub­lic ser­vant whose job is to truth­fully and hon­estly tell the pub­lic about the work of the South African Po­lice Ser­vice.

He had to an­swer some hard ques­tions about what the po­lice did or didn’t do.

Alas, he re­sorted to lies, anger and ob­fus­ca­tion.

What Naidoo would have us be­lieve was that those who found them­selves at that Sa­sol garage next to the FBN Sta­dium, where most of the cell­phone-grab­bing, the bagsnatch­ing and the as­saults hap­pened, should see them­selves as un­lucky vic­tims of crime who hap­pened to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

As far as the peo­ple whose job it is to “pre­vent” crime and, where it oc­curs, “in­ves­ti­gate” it were con­cerned, there was no ne­ces­sity to go to the garage to ob­tain CCTV footage, even if it was to help them ver­ify their own facts.

As holes were be­ing punched in their nar­ra­tive, it was then left to the tough-talk­ing po­lice min­is­ter, Bheki Cele, to try his hand at spin.

Most of the crimes com­mit­ted af­ter Sun­day’s fes­ti­val fell out­side of the po­lice’s se­cu­rity plan, he would tell jour­nal­ists on Wed­nes­day.

Oth­er­wise, po­lice were there in their num­bers and “re­sponded bet­ter, promptly and ad­e­quately”, he in­sisted.

FNB Sta­dium man­age­ment was in­censed.

“For po­lice to say they were there and fol­lowed pro­to­col is a bla­tant lie,” CEO Jac­ques Grobbe­laar told Times Live, adding that the po­lice left be­fore they were sup­posed to and that the over­all plan for the event was never prop­erly fol­lowed.

Even more of an in­dict­ment is that Sun­day’s events, ac­cord­ing to Grobbe­laar, mir­rored what hap­pened at the same venue last year, where two fans died dur­ing a soc­cer match stam­pede.

Sta­dium Man­age­ment South Africa then wrote to the sports min­is­ter, re­quest­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry, which would also look at the ad­e­quacy (or lack) of the Safety at Sports and Recre­ational Events Act.

The com­mis­sion was in­deed es­tab­lished, by then sports min­is­ter Them­be­lani “Thu­las” Nx­esi, but the in­quiry was then with­drawn by cur­rent sports min­is­ter Tokozile Xasa ear­lier this year.

The ques­tions is, why? Grobbe­laar reck­ons there needs to be more clar­ity on the role of the po­lice, ver­sus that of the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice depart­ment, when it comes to event safety and se­cu­rity.

And he may well be cor­rect, be­cause Jo­han­nes­burg metropoli­tan po­lice depart­ment chief David Tembe be­lieves not only did his men and women play their own part, but ac­tu­ally went be­yond their call of duty.

Be­tween the state law en­force­ment agen­cies and the man­agers of the sta­dium, that was built and paid for through tax­pay­ers’ money, is a sick­en­ing blam­ing and fin­ger-point­ing game, with none of them want­ing to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Ev­ery­one is sin­gu­larly fo­cused on keep­ing their own hands clean, in­stead of cor­rect­ing the wrongs.

Even Cele’s pre­pared­ness to “con­cede” that po­lice could have done bet­ter, I sus­pect, was an at­tempt merely to dis­arm the vic­tims and to pacify his crit­ics.

I doubt he will take the is­sue any fur­ther, while it will be in­grained in the minds of the world that has been re­port­ing on this is­sue this past week, that we are in­deed the crime cap­i­tal of the world.

It is un­likely that Cele’s boss, the pres­i­dent and head of the ex­ec­u­tive arm of the state, will take him and his sports coun­ter­part to task about what they have or haven’t done.

And Cyril Ramaphosa will won­der why his in­vest­ment calls aren’t be­ing heard.

A video sur­faced this week, show­ing for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at an Eskom event.

Upon be­ing briefed by the loot­ers and en­ablers of state cap­ture that the power util­ity was do­ing so well un­der them, the then head of state then yelps en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in front of staff: “Ev­ery­thing is fine … I’m go­ing to tell the coun­try: There will never, never, never be load-shed­ding again.”

Just months af­ter Zuma left, look where we are, in the dark, for the next few years at least.

And as it emerged on Thurs­day af­ter­noon at a brief­ing ad­dressed by pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and Eskom board chair­man Jabu Mabuza, months af­ter prom­ises of a turn­around plan, the “clean-up” brigade that hid be­hind Zuma and his thugs aren’t giv­ing us a great deal of hope ei­ther.

Zuma, Cele, Ramaphosa and their apol­o­gists will prob­a­bly tell you that they rely on in­for­ma­tion sup­plied to them by other peo­ple.

Which is true, but un­help­ful.

There should be con­se­quences for those who don’t do their jobs, or lie, as was clearly the case this week.

And gee, we are talk­ing about the po­lice here.

But then in­sti­tu­tions and their sys­tems are as weak and in­ef­fec­tive as their lead­ers, if you ask me.

There should be con­se­quences for those who don’t do their jobs, or lie, as was clearly the case this week

BHEKI CELE

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