A violent service-delivery protest almost spirals out of control in the troubled township of Bekkersdal on the West Rand, Johannesburg, last month. Picture: THE TIMES/ALON SKUY
The upsurge against state authority was not expected to decline soon, given the climate of service delivery and other protest actions. Picture: THE TIMES/ALON SKUY

WHILE service delivery protests have remained largely constant over the past three years, the number that have turned violent has more than doubled, Parliament’s police committee was told on Wednesday.

The quality of public order policing in the South African Police Service (SAPS) shot to prominence after the killing of Ficksburg service delivery activist Andries Tatane in 2011 and the shooting of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012.

Police commissioner Riah Phiyega and the head of public order policing (POP), Gen Elias Mawela, told the committee that from 12,651 incidents in 2010-11 the number had remained largely constant, with 12,399 recorded in 2012-13. But what concerned them was that violent protests had doubled, from 971 in 2010-11 to 1,882 in 2012-13.

Gen Phiyega said violent protests were not unique to South Africa, noting unrest in the US after the shooting of a black teenager by a white policeman.

Gen Mawela said: "the republic is currently experiencing an upsurge in violent incidents which is requiring urgent additional interventions from the SAPS."

This upsurge against state authority was not expected to decline soon, given the climate of service delivery and other protest actions. "Although SAPS POP actions have been largely successful in containing these incidents, and the use of force has been limited, the situation requires a renewed focus," he said.

The number of officers in POP units has fallen from a high of 11,000 in 1995 to 4,721 now. The plan is to increase the number by 1,000 a year for four years.