State of Readiness of SAPS to Police Elections: Minister and National Commissioner's briefing

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25 February 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

25 February 2004

Mr George (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SAPS Briefing on 2004 National and Provincial Elections
Proposed Amendments to the Firearms Regulations
Firearms Control Act, 2000 - Firearms Control Regulations
Committee Annual Report 2003

The SAPS Deputy National Commissioner outlined the five-phase strategy for policing the upcoming elections. He and the Minister of Safety and Security then fielded the Committee’s questions, particularly on policing efforts in KwaZulu-Natal. The Committee then adopted the Regulations for the Firearms Control Act and their Annual Report.

Mr C Nqakula (Minister of Safety and Security) apologised for being unable to deliver the promised report into the allegedly untoward activities of the Chairperson of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), Mr Josiah Jele. The matter was being taken very seriously and a finalised report would be presented to the Committee.

Adv Swart (DA) said he trusted the Minister was dealing with the matter effectively, but noted that his Party had expressed concern that some of the regulations might be ultra vires.

Mr Booi (ANC) accepted the Minister’s apology and thanked the DA for respecting the sensitive nature of the issue. The Minister assured Adv Swart that the matter was being extensively discussed. He then apologised for the absence of the National Police Commissioner who was attending to international obligations. Deputy National Commissioner Pruis would thus present the briefing.

Deputy Commissioner Pruis noted that they would be policing about 17 000 voting stations. The election strategy had been divided up into five operational phases: registration weekends; pre-election phase; final operational preparation; election day; and post-election phase. The preparation for the election as a whole had been based on debriefing reports from the previous two elections, as well as extensive planning.

The pre-election phase would consist of focussed operations (including special emphasis on KwaZulu-Natal); stability operations (to achieve high visibility in troubled areas); meetings and rallies (he implored political parties to inform police when they intended to hold a rally), and training of members of the SAPS. The third operational phase would involve consolidation intensification of the previous phase in the immediate run-up to the election. On election day, each voting station would be policed to assist the electoral officers to maintain order. Extra police services would also be deployed where needed. The SAPS would be on standby during the post-election phase to implement any contingency plans.

He said it was not possible to give actual force numbers, but assured the Committee that intelligence reports would insure adequate and well-placed policing. Various contingency plans were in place to deal with possible bomb threats, hostage situations and natural disasters. Further services being set up included special election detective services to deal with election complaints and serious offences, and extensive air support from the SANDF if necessary. He finished the presentation with a command and control overview for the elections.

The Chair asked what would be done to ensure police officers remained politically neutral. When the Committee visited KZN, they saw that the police were clearly supporters of the IFP and this political bias could affect voters.

Commissioner Pruis said the police had a duty to respond to instructions beyond political affiliations. Additional members of the SAPS from other stations across the country would be deployed in the province.

Minister Nqakula also listed a number of Acts that are applicable during the election period and by which the police were bound. He urged parties to notify police if there were any transgressions of these laws so the individual members could be held responsible. The police took their constitutional duty of ensuring free and fair elections very seriously.

Mr Maserumule (ANC) noted that ‘election fever’ was growing and was unsure whether the police were properly prepared.

Mr Maziya (ANC) said the presentation had mentioned that local government would be involved in the election policing. He wondered whether this referred to community policing and observed that these forums were often looked down upon.

Adv Swart (DA) remarked that the police were the physical safeguards of democracy and thanked the police for their work. He then requested for a general status report on KZN, if one existed.

Mr Booi (ANC) asked whether the detective task teams would have a specific time period in which to respond to complaints. He also wanted to know how voters would distinguish police who had been specifically placed at voting stations. He wondered whether private security forces would play a role.

Ms Sosibo (ANC) suggested that police from KZN be deployed elsewhere and be replaced with police officers from other parts of the country.

Another Member asked whether there would be special police reinforcements for voting stations in KZN. She also noted the propensity of losing parties to complain about election results, so asked how visible the police would be during counting.

Mr Swart (ACDP) said his party continued to pray for peaceful elections. His question related to the capacity of detectives to investigate election fraud in a limited time frame.

The Minister said that KZN had been identified as a special case and would be handled as such. Some measures included deploying extra members of the SAPS in the province, many of them senior officials. The national commanding officers would also concentrate much time and effort in KZN.

He went on to assure Members that sufficient policing measures were in place, but noted that some of these were operational and could not be detailed. Preparation for this third election was better than ever before. The SAPS had been internationally recognised as being particularly skilled at policing large events.

Deputy Commissioner Pruis informed the Committee that the Metro Police would be involved in policing rallies and other such local responsibilities. Any election complaints could be reported at local police stations and then forwarded to the provincial detective teams. Police would be present until the counting had been finalised and would often help with transporting the vote. The SAPS would remain deployed in certain areas after completing the count to ensure order.

He turned to KZN, appealing to all political parties to report any bias of police officers. He dismissed the idea of redeploying the entire police force in KZN, but noted that all provinces would be closely monitored from the following week and that at any stage, members could be deployed to another province. The SAPS had received requests from around the globe for advice on how to run elections.

Regulations of the Firearms Control
The Chair verified that the amendments to the Regulations had been inserted. As these were Regulations, all that was needed to pass them was a simple majority.

All Members were in favour of the Regulations, except for the representatives from the DA and ACDP. The Regulations were adopted.

Committee Annual Report
The Chair noted that the Report had been circulated prior to the meeting for Members to examine. All were in favour of adopting the Report.

The Chair, Adv Swart (DA), Mr Swart (ADCP) and Mr Booi (ANC) thanked their fellow Committee Members for their good working relationship over the previous five years, and wished them well over the elections.

The meeting was adjourned.


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