Parliament gears up to probe police over handling of violence and looting
Committee will probe what intelligence the police had, if any, before and during the unrest — and why they did not act on it
Parliament's police portfolio committee on Tuesday debated the terms of reference for its imminent inquiry into the failures of the police to deal effectively with the recent civil unrest.
The violence and looting of goods in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people.
This comes as the oversight committee pushes for its probe into the leadership and management lapses at the SAPS to start in the next few weeks.
According to draft terms of reference, parliament's police committee — led by ANC MP Tina Joemat-Pettersson — would, among other things, probe what intelligence the police had, if any, before and during the unrest — and why they did not act on it.
If the terms of reference are adopted in their current form, the inquiry would also seek to establish how the violence was organised and the role of so-called “instigators”.
The week-long unrest, which has been described as insurrection, was ignited just days after the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. It caused huge financial and infrastructural damage running into hundreds of millions of rand, with KZN worst hit.
According to the terms of reference, the inquiry will probe allegations that some metro police and SAPS officers participated in the looting. The inquiry will also seek to understand what type of leadership and resources had been made available to the police to quell the riots.
Joemat-Pettersson said the probe would not be a judicial inquiry, with no evidence leaders, allowing MPs to lead the investigation against the SAPS. The committee will have powers to subpoena witnesses.
The committee was expected to adopt the terms of reference on Wednesday, but Joemat-Pettersson said they were presenting MPs with a draft to allow them two weeks to comment before adoption. She said they were studying the relevant police legal framework to determine which documents could be declassified for their investigation.
“The intelligence community is conducting an inquiry, you are correct. I have brought your first draft to you for consideration and not for adoption, hence today whatever concerns or questions you have will be recorded meticulously, I will go through them and take them back to the chief whip and to the house chairperson.
“Before we conduct this inquiry, we have to set the parameters, the time frames, the terms of reference, and we need to know that everything is above board and that those questions you have raised have been responded to,” Joemat-Pettersson told MPs.