JOHANNESBURG – The government has pledged to increase the police’s powers to protect protesters against attacks on them and will give them greater powers to investigate possible assaults.
The move comes after at least two protests were marred by violent clashes between protesters and police.
On Saturday, more than 1,000 people gathered outside the National Stadium in Pretoria in the South African capital for a rally against a proposed state of emergency in South Africa, where police are prohibited from making arrests.
The protesters also chanted “police out” and “f— the police.”
The protesters marched to the Johannesburg City Hall and a nearby park and chanted slogans including “Police out.”
The protesters marched in the direction of the Pretoria Metropolitan Police headquarters and then moved on to the Pretrial Complex, where there were clashes.
The South African police chief said Saturday that the police would now have more authority to arrest protesters, with the aim of finding the perpetrators of attacks on protesters.
Police would also have to investigate any alleged assaults, he said.
A police spokesman said Saturday evening that they have now been given more powers to use in cases of violent attacks against protesters.
He did not elaborate.
A protestor is detained by police near a burning barricade on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa.AP News reports the police have been granted powers to carry out searches of people and seize items if they fail to identify the person who threw the firebomb.
Police have also been given new powers to detain people for up to 24 hours without a warrant.
A protester is detained in Johannesburg, South African.AP Photo/Ned StarkA government statement on Saturday said that a number of police officers would be trained on how to use their new powers.
Police also said that they would have more powers of arrest and search.
A woman is arrested in Pretorius.AP photo/Nate SeidelA protest in Pretorians city center.AP:APA protester in Pretoris.AP news/Bethany TingleyA protester walks past burning barricades in Pretori.APnews/Benjamin ChikwenduThe South Africa Police Force (SAPS) says the plan is to train police officers on the new powers and then deploy them on a regular basis to ensure the new measures are effective.
The plan also comes as the government faces a major constitutional crisis over the death of a black man in police custody last week, after police shot and killed him on charges of assaulting officers.
The man died after police fired on his legs and torso.
In a statement on Friday, the government said the measures would be a first step toward addressing the issue of racial discrimination in South African society and that the new plans would provide greater protections to African citizens.
The government said that its plan will be reviewed regularly and would also be amended if necessary.
In the past year, South Africans have protested against several government policies, including a controversial state of law reforms, a proposal to make the national flag red, and the deployment of new police units to address a rising number of violent crimes against women and children.