SAPS, metro cops in Jo'burg stand-off
Protesting metro police officers fired live ammunition at South African Police Service (SAPS) members in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
SAPS Gauteng police spokesperson Superintendent Eugene Opperman said the police had been forced to fire rubber bullets at metro police members who had blockaded the city, causing traffic gridlock.
Seven metro police officers—three women and four men—were injured during the police action, Opperman said.
The exchange occurred in the Eloff Street/M2 highway area.
The protests were triggered by complaints over salaries and nepotism. Strikers said they would not return to work until their grievances had been addressed.
Major roads and highways were blocked, causing traffic havoc.
Said Opperman: “The SAPS deplores the conflict-seeking type of protest by the Johannesburg metro police.
“The police requested the metro police officers on several occasions to disperse from the highway and open it to peak hour traffic.”
The metro officers refused and the police officers were forced to disperse the group using rubber bullets.
“However, live ammunition was fired from the metro police side at the police officers.
“This was, of course, highly irresponsible and dangerous.”
Under the circumstances the police could not react appropriately because of the large number of motorists and other innocent people in the vicinity.
The police opened a case of attempted murder and an illegal gathering, as well as obstructing the normal flow of road traffic.
A South African Press Association reporter heading into the city centre said that by 6.30pm it had taken him over 30 minutes just to get over the Queen Elizabeth bridge.
“Vehicles are inches away from each other ... the situation is being made worse by angry and frustrated motorists and taxi drivers ignoring the rules, creating new lanes against the flow of traffic, and trying to turn around when there is no room for this at all,” he said.
“Although there have been radio warnings not to head for the city centre, these have come too late for thousands who are basically trapped; there is no way back and no way forward.”
Office workers in the city centre were told by their supervisors to stay at their desks for the time being as there was absolutely no point in getting into a car or taxi while the city was gridlocked.
Darren Bergman, Democratic Alliance safety spokesperson in Johannesburg, said in a statement that there had been an ever-increasing power struggle between the hierarchy of Johannesburg metro police and their officers on the ground.
With all the general lawlessness taking place in Zimbabwe, it was crazy to believe that the very people entrusted with protecting the citizens of Johannesburg would go out and break their own laws.
“Threats of strikes and union interventions are not an uncommon subject for the JMPD [Johannesburg metro police department].
“In our committee there has always been a concern that, with the levels of low moral and poor discipline that plague the metro police department, it would eventually turn into the circus that some of the poor commuters along our highways were treated to this evening.”
In the past police departments were an institution of discipline and honour and people joined for the passion of the badge.
“These days our police department is plagued by some officers that join because they need jobs rather than fighting the common war against crime and lawlessness.”—Sapa