The police and intelligence services are butting heads over who is responsible for not reacting to violent protests in Vuwani that left thousands of pupils stranded when at least 24 schools were reduced to ashes.
State Security Minister David Mahlobo dropped a bombshell this week that police failed to act on intelligence given about the pending pandemonium a full year before the violence started.
But Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s office has hit back by saying that the SA Police Service did mobilise its forces and moved to quell tensions when they received information about the pending riots in the Limpopo town.
“We were there when the violence started and we have since managed to quell tensions. We are still on the ground and doing ongoing monitoring, which has stabilised the area. The situation there is calm,” said Mbalula’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga.
Mahlobo’s comments came during his report-back on the peace and stability commission at the ANC’s fifth national policy conference, which ended on Wednesday. When asked by journalists why his organisation had not acted, he said they had passed on intelligence to the police.
But Mhaga said Mbalula had specifically visited Vuwani shortly after his appointment to personally ensure that the town was stabilised and law and order were restored.
The DA said in a statement it had written to the basic education portfolio committee in parliament to ask Mahlobo to appear before it and explain why he had never acted on the intelligence received before the protests in Vuwani took place.
Mhaga said Mbalula and Mahlobo, together with other members of the justice cluster, had been working to improve communication and collaboration in fighting crime across the board, as well as bettering strategies of dealing with violent protests going forward.
He said the cluster recently met to deal with the concerns that were raised by Mahlobo in the ANC’s commission report.
Mhaga says there is renewed vigour in the justice cluster in dealing with violent crimes and that Mbalula was confident the report-back on peace and stability at the ANC’s national conference at the end of the year would be a different one.
“The police are currently working very closely with intelligence to fast-track the launching of our operational command centres in every province, which will improve our presence and rapid response to crime. We are on top of the situation,” Mhaga said.
The operational command centres’ main focus is on intelligence-led policing, which will see state security services, crime intelligence and the police working as a unit to combat serious crimes.
During his report-back at the policy conference, Mahlobo decried the poor levels of evidence gathering, which hamper successful prosecutions on cases that should naturally be winnable.
The police said this was a priority area as there was a strategy in place for the ongoing capacity building of investigators and detectives. – firstname.lastname@example.org