SAPS state of readiness for Day Zero possibility

Police Oversight, Community Safety and Cultural Affairs (WCPP)

28 February 2018
Chairperson: Ms M Werner (DA)
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Meeting Summary

With the drought still persisting in the Western Cape, the South African Police Service (SAPS) briefed the Committee on its plans to maintain public safety across the province in case Day Zero arrived. It spelt out the measures it would take to ensure that all SAPS stations remained fully operational, and that its personnel and facilities, including jails, would be self-sufficient and operational if normal water supplies ran dry.

The SAPS said it had well-established plans for the safety of the public, key infrastructure and Points of Distribution (PODs) of water, should Day Zero be declared, and would co-ordinate with other role players in order to achieve its mandate. A total of 187 PODs had been identified and assessed in different parts of the Cape Town metropole. Activities and assets at these facilities would be well-secured and SAPS and other role players were prepared to deal with any threat or danger that may arise. Participatory role players included SAPS, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), and metro police. Community groups would also provide relevant information about the conduct of community members in relation to the water crisis.

Members asked about the state of preparedness of SAPS and other role players. Was SAPS able to protect its members and other role players? Would police stations and essential services be self-sufficient if Day Zero was declared? Members also expressed their concern at the possibility of violent outbreaks in the informal settlements. Would the SAPS be able to curb land invasions in informal settlements at such a time? How could SAPS stop people from hoarding water?

Other concerns included the effective co-ordination of all the role players who would be involved. SAPS was urged to prioritise the involvement of the military in disaster management, as this had been found to be effective in controlling situations around the world, especially during critical times.

The SAPS promised to consider all concerns raised by Members in its planning in order to achieve public safety, in case Day Zero was declared.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks

The Chairperson said that the Western Cape Province currently faced an unprecedented drought and the lowest rainfall in history. This posed a serious challenge that could be overcome only through resilience and concerted efforts from all stakeholders. She commended the resilience demonstrated by the people of the Western Cape in their compliance with the water restriction of 50 L/person/day. However, more could still be done to avert the risks of climate change in the future. Plans must be put in place to ensure readiness, in case Day Zero was eventually realised. The South African Police Service (SAPS) had been asked to share its plans to maintain public safety across the province in case Day Zero arrived. There was a need to ensure that all SAPS stations remained fully operational during a Day Zero phase, including measures to ensure that SAPS personnel and its facilities, including jails, would be self-sufficient and operational during that time.

Briefing by South African Police Service (SAPS)

Major General Mpumelelo Manci, Western Cape Deputy Police Commissioner, said that SAPS had plans to ensure public safety in case Day Zero was realised. It would address:

  • The meaning of Day Zero;
  • Cluster Pods composition;
  • Risk grading of pods;
  • Risk-based resource allocation;
  • Deployments: SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and military police;
  • Operational approach, including roles and responsibilities.

Apart from the existing capacity at the water distribution points, there would also be provision of supportive policing in order to keep the situation under control. SAPS would ensure effective co-ordination among participatory agencies to achieve a smooth operation and results.

Brigadier Jorina Zandberg, Provincial Head: Police Operations Command Centre, said that a total of 187 points of distribution (PODs) had been identified and assessed within the metropole.  The number of PODs differed from community to community, depending on the need. The number of PODs were Blue Downs 32, Cape Town 10, Khayelitsha 12, Milnerton 20, Mitchells Plain 35, Nyanga 19, Tygerberg 36 and Wynberg 23. The total number of high, medium and low-risk areas were 86, 21 and 80, respectively. She confirmed that an additional 53 PODs have been identified within the metropole, but they were yet to be graded in terms of risk.

Brig Zandberg said that risk grading, based on community incidents of crime, public protests and stability assessments, had been conducted in 176 identified PODs by a team comprising City of Cape Town engineers, SAPS crime Intelligence and Disaster Risk Management. Areas were generally graded into high, medium or low-risk, depending on the aforementioned factors.

SAPS had made provision for appropriate deployments of SAPS members and other role players. In high-risk areas, five SAPS members, five traffic officers, five metro police and five law enforcement agents would be deployed to ensure safety and security at PODs. In medium-risk areas, there would be three of each, and in low risk areas, one of each would be deployed.

Brig Zandberg said that 10 SANDF members and one vehicle would be deployed to each metropole cluster. She assured the Committee that critical infrastructure, including national key points, water storage facilities and desalination points would receive adequate protection and security. The military police would also be on the ground to render key services.

Crime Intelligence, Visible Policing (VISPOL), detectives and provincial interventions public order policing (POP) would work together to co-ordinate instructions. A nodal point would be established on Day Zero at the disaster risk management offices in Goodwood, where all complaints related to the water crisis would be forwarded to relevant role-players and reaction teams for attention. All information would then be forwarded to the control centre, which would then forward early warnings to respective role players. The Provincial Joint Operational Centre (SAPS Provjoc) would be activated and would operate in conjunction with the disaster risk management nodal point.


Mr M Wiley (DA) spoke about the importance of the state of preparedness in disaster management. How effective was the state of preparedness of SAPS officials and other role players to ensure their safety, the safety of stations and assets, as well as the safety of the community?What plans did SAPS have for shift management and a response to urgent needs in case of dangers and other public concerns. Would members be drawn from the SAPS response unit, or from other role players?

He expressed concern about the situation in informal settlements. How did SAPS plan to ensure effective water distribution there?  Was there effective co-ordination among the various role players? He expressed concern about the absence of a military component in SAPS’s presentation. The military was a vital component of disaster management in terms of relief, support, supplies and humanitarian aid.

Mr B Kivedo (DA) was more concerned about the peculiarity of each community. He wanted to know if communities had been properly sensitised about the issues surrounding water supply. People’s lifestyle, life experiences and the matrix of each community may differ significantly. A community of people who behaved appropriately in the past may become relatively violent due to the changing circumstances, without early warnings or danger signs. He worried that people may break water restriction regulations due to existential threats and other factors. What if there was a breach in the reticulation of water? What would happen if a large household comprising 20-30 people collected water and stored it away? How would smaller households feel? 

He asked about the Contingency plans of SAPS to handle civil unrest and threats. Were all role players on the same page? Did the SAPS have plans to sensitise communities on the water crisis and its management?

Ms P Lekker (ANC) was concerned about the possibility of a land invasion, which had caused violence in the past. How did SAPS intend to deal such an invasion in case Day Zero was declared? Were there plans for appropriate deployments in high risk areas?

She also asked about the effectiveness of SAPS’s intelligence gathering. She said some residents in informal settlements, especially Blue Downs, had started selling their drinking water, which could adversely affect them. Did the SAPS have plans in place to curb this form of breach? Were there specialised people in every community that would monitor people’s attitude towards water supply?

SAPS responses

Gen Manci said other departments, communities and churches were involved, and activities would be co-ordinated.

He confirmed that deployment would be complemented and supplemented by adequate support systems on a 24-hour basis. Cluster operational teams would be fully involved.  The eight police clusters around Cape Town would be secured by SAPS, in concert with ten soldiers and one defence vehicle. He assured the Committee that SAPS was able to deal with whatever threat that might arise.

In response to Ms Lekker, Gen Manci said that dedicated members, volunteers and committees were in place to monitor what went on in each community. He acknowledged that Nyanga was a high-risk community. However, he assured the Committee of SAPS’s capability to keep the situation under control. This would be possible due to the ability of SAPS to move resources around, especially in the aspect of policing. The SAPS would also ensure aerial patrols using helicopters, where necessary. The SAPS would be proactive in its activities in order to prevent danger, especially in high-risk areas. He said that 60 soldiers and six vehicles would provide security for water tankers, and would patrol PODs in high-risk areas.

There would be a dedicated transport system to ensure that members were transported effectively to points of duty. Members would not be allowed to struggle to get to points of duty.

SAPS would handle the situation around the PODs with regard to in and out movement, and complaints coming from the communities. More officials would be on the ground in high risk areas like Nyanga and Kraaifontein, to ensure order and safety at all queues and parking spaces associated with PODs across the province.

Gen Manci said there would be a top joint meeting where all departments would present their plans and strategies at the highest level of involvement. He assured the Committee that there was co-operation, especially the sharing of ideas among all the role players. Regional commissioners were also meeting within their respective clusters to ensure effective preparedness. There was concern about Day Zero, because it was a life issue. There was commitment on the part of everyone.

He confirmed that communities would be appropriately sensitised through the village heads, community leaders, churches and other relevant means of communication.

Resources would be in place to discourage people from collecting more water than they needed and to curb civil unrest. Civil unrest would be curbed by dedicated members, patrols and helicopters as the need arose to ensure a swift and effective response. Activities were being carried out to simulate a real-life scenario, to ensure the effectiveness of the plan.

He promised to consider all Members’ concerns. Their input would be factored into the plans in order to achieve results.

Brig Zandberg said about 600 police officers, metro police and SANDF personnel would be on the ground to safeguard all PODs across the province. Five detectives would be allocated to each policing cluster to investigate any matter related to the water crisis. The SAPS was committed to ensuring safety and security through proactive measures based on information received on current situations.

SAPS would ensure an adequate water supply to all emergency and essential services should Day Zero be declared. Informal settlements would continue to get water. The outlet taps were dedicated as PODs, and would be secured by the police.

SAPS was working with the City of Cape Town, the Department of Water and Sanitation, law enforcement and relevant agencies, to ensure the success of the plans.

The Chairperson thanked SAPS for its presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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