Strikes and service delivery protests are an almost every day occurrence in South Africa, and as crowds get more unruly, it seems as though the South African Police Service (SAPS) is budgeting on some hi-tech weaponry to keep everyone in check.
According to documentation that was shown to a parliament portfolio committee on police, SAPS has set aside around R1.9-million for 11 controversial Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) – or sonic/sound cannons.
The device is described as “sending messages, warnings, and harmful, pain-inducing tones over longer distances than normal loudspeakers,” according to Wikipedia. In short, it is a giant and incredibly powerful speaker with the sole aim to technologically incapacitate whoever is standing in front of it.
Whether the blasting of protesters with a wall of sounds in ethically correct is still up for debate – Amnesty International has called for the review of the device, as it could possibly violate human rights.
Human rights commentator and University of Johannesburg journalism professor Jane Duncan told Times Live that there are huge risks involved when using the sound cannon.
“There is no evidence of the police taking the health and safety risks of sound cannons into account. They are punted as being non-lethal interventions. But the equipment has the potential of resulting in people within the vicinity dying or becoming deaf.”
According to the police document ‘Enhancing of the public order policing capacity within the SAPS’, it makes a short mention of cash set aside and what the device does. “Non-lethal interventions. Disruption of balance through frequency,” the bullet points state.
It also mentions that the police initially wanted to order more, but had to settle for only 11 portable units as it “had to be reduced due to exchange rate”. One unit will be a fixed model.
“This is bad news for the right to protest in South Africa, a constitutionally guaranteed right,” Jane concluded.
The device was used for the first time in the US in 2009 during the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
[Source – Times Live, Image – YouTube]