National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole on Monday told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that police did not have enough members to effectively respond to the unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July.
Sitole was testifying at the SAHRC’s hearing into the unrest.
He said the South African Police Service (Saps) has about 5,000 public order police officers, but the country ideally needs around 12,000.
“We’ve got extremely limited capacity of that particular reserve compliment, because of the fact that our numbers are completely limited and down,” said Sitole.
“Instead of us having 12,000, we are at 5,000 and the demand by Gauteng alone is 4,000.”
Sitole said if the police had more members, their response to the unrest would have been more effective.
“The modus operandi applied here was that of overstretching police resources. They were drawing us into a human capital crisis,” he said.
The police commissioner also said the unrest was planned and unpredictable, which made it difficult to get an approved operational plan.
“So contingency planning operational instructions are always there, but because the modus operandi was not exactly known, there wasn’t an approved operational plan.”
He also said the police needed to improve it’s intelligence services.
The SAHRC’s hearings are looking into the causes of the apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies, particularly the Saps, as well as the social, economic and political factors in the affected areas.
The unrest left more than 340 people dead and cost the country’s economy an estimated R50 billion.