Did the police do the right thing at Nkandla?

Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after the apex court found him guilty of contempt following repeated failed attempts to get him to return to testify at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses his supporters in front of his rural home in Nkandla on 4 July 2021 for the first time since he was given a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. Picture: Emmanuel Croset / AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of pro-Zuma supporters marched to Nkandla on Sunday after the Constitutional Court passed a judgment on 29 June 2021 instructing former President Jacob Zuma to spend 15 months in prison.

He was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after the apex court found him guilty of contempt following repeated failed attempts to get him to return to testify at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

READ: Zuma could dodge jail for now as Concourt agrees to hear rescission application

In response to the ruling Zuma's supporters along with a few ANC leaders gathered at the former statesman's house defying the current level 4 COVID-19 lockdown regulations as the SAPS stood at the sidelines like spectators at a soccer match.

This has led to widespread criticism of the country's law enforcement with people questioning why the police allowed the Nkandla super spreader to go ahead in direct violation of level 4 lockdown restrictions, which ban all gatherings with the aim to curb COVID-19 infections.

Speaking to Lester Kiewit Police on Cape Talk, policy analyst Ziyanda Stuurman said that it was a good call on the part of the police to not engage with the Nkandla crowd.

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"It was a good thing that we avoided what could have been an incredibly violent tragic incident. I think the police on Sunday assessed the situation, they evaluated the situation and decided that it was in everyone's interest not to engage the crowd, whether it was mass arrests or trying to disperse the crowd. And I think at the end of the day that was the right call to make."

But South Africans want to know what makes this particular crowd or the EFF crowd that marched to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) offices demanding vaccines more important than the disabled and old people who were attacked by the police for waiting in line outside SASSA in Belville.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said it was not that officers were scared, as some people have said, but they were drawing on lessons from the Marikana massacre, saying it was a dangerous situation.

“[It’s not that] police there did not retreat because they were scared. We had a lot of cops, there were about 200 cops. When special forces get there and someone who is reckless, has no responsibility whatsoever and wants to cause chaos… we’re not going to be sucked in the chaos of the people.

READ MORE: Cele defends police inaction as Zuma supporters flouted covid rules in Nkandla

But Stuurman said that, even though there is training to deal with crowds, inconsistency in the way South Africa's police service regulate people during protests is the problem.

"I think the root cause of that comes from the incredible inconsistency in crowd regulation and the policing of protests. In terms of the fact that there are much better protocols and training and crowd control regulations amongst the police but essentially all of those are applied incredibly inconsistently to the point where you see at least from the outside, political groups, political gatherings even the political elite are treated far differently to how you and I would be treated."

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