KZN police ‘combat ready’ for EFF shutdown

People wishing to go to work on Monday will be protected, says community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka

17 March 2023 - 14:25
By MFUNDO MKHIZE
Lungelo Zulu from the community policing forum board, Sibusiso Mthethwa of the KZN SA National Taxi Council, KZN community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka and provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi brief the media about safety preparations for the national shutdown on Monday.
Image: Nqubeko Mbhele Lungelo Zulu from the community policing forum board, Sibusiso Mthethwa of the KZN SA National Taxi Council, KZN community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka and provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi brief the media about safety preparations for the national shutdown on Monday.

The police are in “combat mode” and ready to deal with any acts of anarchy that may arise during Monday’s planned EFF nationwide shutdown and its build-up activities.

This was the stern warning given on Friday by KwaZulu-Natal provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi at a media briefing called by community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka in Mayville, Durban.

“The citizens need to forgive us because we might be tougher on the streets as we are in combat mode,” said Mkhwanazi.

“All forces of the Saps and other law enforcement forces, including the military, will also be helping us to combat anything that could threaten the safety and security of the public.” 

The EFF’s march against rising unemployment, load-shedding and the removal of President Cyril Ramaphosa has been assigned high-risk status, which has prompted security agencies to be on high alert.

Party leader Julius Malema has remained bullish about their move and issued a threatening warning at a briefing on Wednesday, saying members were “ready for Phoenix”, in a reference to the deaths that occurred during the July 2021 riots.

The threat, which has been labelled racial incitement, caused concern on social media that the township, in which almost 40 people died, would see further violence on Monday.

“As it is, we are dealing with statements of people who are being threatened. We are doing this guided by the constitution so that we present this if something wrong happens. We would then have a solid case,” said Mkhwanazi.

He said the resources available to the police were in stark contrast to the resources they had during the July 2021 unrest. He said these resources included the mobilisation of police who would have been on rest days.

“I must say, it’s costing us money as we have to pay extra police officers who would ordinarily have been on rest days, like in 2021. The military has [also] been activated early, unlike in 2021,” said Mkhwanazi.

For Monday's protests there is better co-ordination with the business sector, he said, and the police have been buoyed by the buy-in from security companies, which will exercise heightened vigilance in areas of their operations.

“We encourage them to exercise their duties within the law,” said Mkhwanazi.

We wish to assure our people, especially those who will be going to work, that their rights of going to work and to commute would be protected
Community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka

“We have been very successful in the past with security companies who are often our eyes and ears. They do this by warning us if there are incidents and have technology which will allow us to proactively respond when a threat arises.

“We know what happened previously and we have heard of the threats. The good thing is they made pronouncements on national TV. We know that what happens in Phoenix would be fuelled through communication.”

Hlomuka said the province had historically been the epicentre of many incidents of unrest, such as the July 2021 riots, which were marked by violence, disruption and looting.

He said the province was also aligning itself with the justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS), which had sought to allay the concerns of  citizens by declaring that Monday would be a normal working day.

“We wish to assure our people, especially those who will be going to work, that their rights of going to work and to commute would be protected,” said Hlomuka.

Community policing forums (CPFs) would also be on the ground. He said 1,400 volunteers in all districts would assist in monitoring the situation and passing on information to the police. The government had deployed additional resources such as helicopters, vehicles, nyalas and water cannons. Public order police would also be dispatched throughout all the seven districts of the province.  

He cautioned the public against spreading messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence.  

“Law enforcement will not tolerate any lawlessness and any form of criminality. Its important to note that anyone found contravening the law will be dealt with accordingly, within the prescripts of the law,” said Hlomuka.

The briefing comes a day after police arrested five men in Cato Manor travelling with an assortment of weapons. The suspects were allegedly on their way to make a hit on an unidentified businessman.

With the shutdown coinciding with a long weekend for schools, Hlomuka also urged parents to ensure that their children did not take part.

Provincial SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) deputy chair Sifiso Mthethwa reiterated its stance of distancing itself from the shutdown.

“Our national leadership met earlier with the EFF leaders, where they were unequivocal in distancing themselves from the protests,” he said. “As Santaco it will be business as usual with operations on our route. Not unless there are no commuters.”

Lungelo Zulu, who represents the CPF board, said they were working with the police to ensure the safety of the public.

“The CPF will be playing a back-up role and [as] a force multiplier. The CPF cannot end up being a distraction for the police, where our actions are now unlawful,” said Zulu.

He called on CPF members to act within the law.

“There is no blank cheque that says in your efforts to protect yourself and the community you can break the law. Your role as the community is to report whatever you see and hear to the Saps.”

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