IPID Report Feedback: SAPS’s use of water canon at SASSA Bellville Office
Today, the Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, expressed disappointment at the findings of an investigation into the deployment of SAPS Public Order Policing (POPs) at the SASSA Bellville Offices on 15 January 2021, at which a water canon was used against vulnerable grant recipients.
The events of the day coincided with an oversight visit by National Minister of the Department of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate was requested to investigate and provide clarity on, amongst others, who requested the deployment of the SAPS POPs Unit, and why it was necessary to deploy the resources used, including a water cannon, at a ministerial oversight visit.
After conducting an investigation, IPID has issued a report stating that no misconduct was committed by any member of SAPS who responded and attended to the SAPS complaint.
Minister Fritz said, “We all saw the videos. Water cannons were used on SASSA beneficiaries waiting in a queue outside. We also see protests on a daily basis in our country where crowds are far more unruly than the crowd outside of SASSA on that day, and water cannons are not used on the unruly crowds. So there is the question of inconsistency. On a more fundamental level, though, what kind of society uses state resources to treat vulnerable people; SASSA beneficiaries, like this? The IPID report seems to show that our state institutions allow for this. Is this the kind of society we are?”
According to the Report, a SASSA official requested the assistance of SAPS in Bellville as the crowd outside its offices were not cooperating. When local SAPS officials arrived on the scene and were unsuccessful in bringing the crowd to order, they requested the assistance of the POPS Unit, which arrived and took over from the local officials.
According to SAPS officials questioned by IPID, they only became aware of the ministerial oversight visit during the course of events and were not aware of it beforehand.
Minister Fritz added: “At some level, somebody must be held accountable. If it is the case that SAPS acted in terms of the law – and we cannot rule that out as a matter of principle – then questions must be asked to SASSA and their operations. How is it that a situation like this is allowed to flare up in the first place, for instance? But we cannot be a society in which something like that is rubber-stamped. Somebody must be held accountable.”
The Minister indicated that he will refer the Report for further advice and, after applying his mind, will then make a decision as to how to proceed.