Bheki Mbanjwa, The Daily News
Shackdwellers movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo has slammed the purchase of casspirs by the eThekwini municipality saying this amounted to the militarisation of the metro police department.
The organisation was reacting today after The Mercury carried a story revealing that the city is in the process of purchasing four casspirs at a total cost of R19.9 million.
The casspirs, being purchased from state-owned arms manufacturer Denel, will be used for crowd control and to deal with riot situations. Last night the city provided more details, saying the casspirs will also be used in land invasions.
“These vehicles will assist the Metro Police to carry out their duties while ensuring effective policing for crowd management deployment to ensure the safety of police members in riotous situations when rocks or petrol bombs are thrown,” said eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa in a statement.
Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer said the casspirs would be used by the Crowd Management Unit of the Metro Police.
Sbu Zikode, the president of Abahlali expressed shock at the move and warned that it will lead to more anger from those who are already aggrieved. “This is nothing but an insult on democracy. Clearly we have no leadership here when we have people who rather than negotiate peacefully resort to arming themselves”.
He said it was clear that the armoured vehicles would be used against the landless and poor residents in the city.
“We are asking ourselves whether the deaths of the landless and the poor are not enough. Many people have been killed without such militarisation. Will it not get worse? However, no amount of militarisation, guns or war machinery will stop the landless”.
IFP caucus leader Mduduzi Nkosi said instead of spending so much on casspirs the municipality should rather be trying to find solutions to the problems leading to protests.
“If the municipality addressed the needs of the people by providing decent housing, sanitation, electricity and create sustainable jobs, citizens will have no reason to protest or riot. In any municipality that is well-run, there should be no need for casspirs and other such crowd control measures.
“Such responses by the municipality will only serve to further anger its citizens since these vehicles conjure up images of the hateful apartheid days when casspirs were used against our people”, said Nkosi.
He said the expenditure was wasteful as the SAPS has adequate resources to respond to riot situations.
“We simply cannot approve of municipalities establishing small armies while we have the SAPS and the SANDF to attend to any situation that might arise”.
eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede said she was disappointed with the report about the casspirs. “We will be investigating this to see whether there was a resolution taken by the council to buy them and once we have established that we will respond, but I do not recall any such resolution.”