MORE than 600 police officials – two-thirds of them from police stations across Nelson Mandela Bay – will be deployed as security guards at the ANC election manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Several police officials confirmed that a joint operations centre – manned by police top brass – had been in operation since Monday, while today there would be a venue operational centre which would include other emergency services such as ambulances, the fire department and traffic officials.
Department of State Security officials also arrived in Port Elizabeth this week along with other top police officials from national and provincial head office.
While several police officials voiced concern yesterday over deploying hundreds of officers to act as security guards for VIP delegates at their hotels and at the manifesto event at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, senior police management said the move was necessary in the interests of effective and peaceful crowd control.
Among units which are deployed are the elite Special Task Force, VIP Protection Unit, Airwing, Public Order Policing and several other intervention units. In addition, several police officials have also been deployed to the various beachfront hotels where the delegates are staying.
One police official confirmed that some police stations had to deploy between 10 and 40 police officials per station to the event.
Of the 600 policemen, about 400 are from around Nelson Mandela Bay.
The event is taking place under the Gatherings Act, which means security falls under the mandate of the police, not the stadium or a private security company.
Events are usually held under the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, where security falls under a private security contractor.
One official, who declined to be named, said there was concern over resources being taken away from police stations.
“When it gets queried as to what about normal policing for the residents, we are told to not worry about the crime. The main concern is about the safety of our communities,” the official said. “We have now been downgraded to security guards for a political rally.”
Asked why the VIP Protection Unit did not intervene as protection of delegates fell under their mandate, one official said because their bodyguards and officials did not know their way round Port Elizabeth, they had requested police escorts.
Stadium operating company Access Management chief executive Chantal du Pisani said because the event was held in terms of the Gatherings Act, security was handled by the police.
“In accordance with the act, the police take complete control over safety and security,” she said. “We will, however, deploy security as well, mainly to protect our assets at the stadium.”
Police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “The policy framework ensures our policing approach is consistent with constitutionally accorded rights for all individuals as well as effective crowd control demands.”