Phiyega: Cops aren’t ‘trigger happy’

The National Police Commissioner admits officers do need to engage better with communities.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Officers are not " trigger happy" when dealing with violent protests, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Friday.

She made the comments at a meeting with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

Phiyega and the commission met to discuss the recent spate of violent demonstrations and the use of force.

South African Police Service (SAPS) officials made headlines this year after several protesters died during clashes in various provinces.

The top cop says officers need to be able to identify problems in communities before anger boils over into the streets.

She told the SAHRC when protesters carry weapons, burn property and kill people, police need to engage the community to identify the root of the problem rather than resorting to force.

Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa made a similar statement last month, acknowledging the need for changes in their approach to protests.

Meanwhile, Gauteng police have claimed community leaders are using young people to instigate violence.

The SAPS says there is a need to employ more public order policing officers to attend to the number of protests across the country.

All eyes will be on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan ahead of next Wednesday's Budget Speech and whether government will allocate further resources to policing, particularly ahead of the 7 May elections.

In the Western Cape, Premier Helen Zille, during her State of the Western Cape address currently underway, called on government to provide better resources to stem the problem of unrest in the province.