Vuyo Mvoko | Police as weak as its leadership
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 well remunerated 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 bag snatching 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 TimesLIVE, 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The commission was indeed established, by then sports minister Thembelani “Thulas” Nxesi, but the inquiry was then withdrawn by current sports minister Tokozile Xasa earlier this year.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...