The police have identified people involved in acts of violence associated with ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“Those who were involved in acts of violence have been identified and arrests may be effected while investigation progresses,” Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, groups of youths demonstrating in support of Malema and four of his colleagues, who are up for disciplinary hearings by the ruling party, threw rocks, bottles and bricks at journalists and police in the Johannesburg city centre.
One police officer had to have stitches to his head and at least seven journalists were struck by the projectiles.
Dlamini said police were monitoring a small group which gathered in Beyers Naude Square, close to Luthuli House on Wednesday.
They asked anybody, particularly journalists, injured during Tuesday’s events to lay charges.
“Relative to what happened yesterday, we think the behaviour of people outside was better [on Wednesday],” ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said, even though the ANC did not condone people gathering to support someone who faced disciplinary measures.
On Tuesday, the ANC called the events “un-ANC” and blamed the league.
This view was supported by the alliance partners: Congress of South African Trade Unions, the South African Communist Party, and the Congress of South African Students — who were accused of taking children out of school to attend.
The ANCYL itself condemned the burning of a T-shirt bearing a picture of President Jacob Zuma, who is also ANC president, but blamed agent provocateurs for the violence.
National Freedom Party Gauteng spokesperson Zangezwa Mvelase said the education department should investigate how the children were taken out of school.
Education department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said that according to its information, pupils from 21 schools in Gauteng were taken to the CBD to support Malema.
The department would wait for the outcome of the police investigation, but in the meantime principals whose schools were affected would send it a report.
“We must differentiate — schools are an education field, not a political field.”
A ‘complex’ situation
The police have been criticised for not making immediate arrests, but Jan Burger, senior researcher at the crime and justice programme of the Institute for Security Studies said: “It’s one of those very complex situations.”
From 2006, the year restructuring of the police began, public policing officers were redeployed to police stations and did not attend regular training as before.
The impact of the events in Ficksburg earlier this year, where protester Andries Tatane was killed, allegedly by a police bullet, showed a “complete absence of command and control” in such situations, he said.
Burger said it was evident at a recent workshop that police were concerned not only about their image, but also about the level and standard of public order policing.
“They are struggling within themselves to determine where they are and what level of professionalism they are at, but they still have to deal with everyday incidents of crowd control.”
There were aspects of the Luthuli House incident of which the public were not aware. These included the level of intelligence the police had.
Application for permission for gatherings contained information on the number of people expected to attend and whether there would be marshals. This enables the police to plan the measures they would have in place. No permission was applied for Tuesday’s gathering.
“So, we don’t know if the police had intelligence, and how accurate it was, if they had it,” said Burger.
It appeared that because of the politically charged atmosphere, there could have been political direction in terms of how police were deployed and what they did.
“They knew what the demonstrations would be about — in support of Julius Malema. They knew that it would be a very difficult situation to control, with young people who are known for their sometimes, unruly, outright disorderly or criminal behaviour,” he said.
“But at the same time, they knew they knew the political ramifications if they reacted a little too quickly or over hastily.”
National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele went to Luthuli House, but it was not clear what he was asked to do and what instruction he issued to the police, said Burger.
He believed that the police handled the situation in the best way possible, but that there should still be consequences.
“The ideal [solution] would be to identify people on the video footage and to act against them. At least the organisers should face consequences in terms of existing legislation [the Public Gathering Act].”
Burger said he was happy that the focus had shifted from how police managed such events, to how organisers managed their protests.
“We can’t condone [events] and expect the police to resolve everything, because they have limits. We all know what happens when the police reach the situation where they have to use force,” he said. — Sapa