South Africa's Incident Registration Information System (IRIS): Its use and abuse in protest analysis
South Africa’s Incident Registration Information System (IRIS) is a comprehensive, computerised database maintained by the South African Police Service (SAPS). In principle, it records all public order policing activity including all crowd incidents. While IRIS data is, potentially, a unique source for protest event analysis, considerable care is required. We aim to correct misunderstandings about the data advanced by academics and in the media, and expose its misuse by police chiefs and politicians. In particular, the incidents that IRIS reports are not protests, though protests can be found in the raw data. This article is based, in part, on records of 156,230 incidents covering the period 1997-2013.
Shauna Mottair and Patrick Bond, The politics of discontent and social protest, Politikon 3:3 (2012), 310;
Monique Marks and David Bruce, Groundhog day? Public order policing twenty years into democracy, South African Journal of Criminal Justice, 27:3, 2014.
Athandiwe Saba and Jeanne van der Merwe, ‘SA has a protest every two
days’, News24, 21 January 2013.
Jane Duncan, The rise of the securocrats: The case of South Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2014, 124-5.
Peter Alexander, Carin Runciman and Boitumelo Maruping, South African Police Service (SAPS) Data on crowd incidents: a preliminary analysis. Johannesburg: Social Change Research Unit, University of Johannesburg, 2015;
Carin Runciman, Peter Alexander, Mahlatse Rampedi, Boikanyo Moloto, Boitumelo Maruping, Eunice Khumalo and Sehlaphi Sibanda, Counting police-recorded protests: based on the South African police service data. Johannesburg: Social Change Research Unit, University of Johannesburg, 2016.
Operational Response Services (ORS) Division (of SAPS), National Instruction 4 of 2014. Public Order Police: Crowd Management During Public Gatherings and Deminstrations, 6. Available at http://protestinfo.org.za/download/saps_standing_orders/National-Instruction-4-of-2014-Public-Order-Police-Crowd-Management-During-Public-Gatherings-and-Demonstrations.pdf.
BMR Stroh and HL Louwrens, Training Manual, 9 January 2006, 12, available from SAHA, SAH-2015-SAP-0024 (A20.02.06).
Lt. Col. Vernon Day, email to Prof. Alexander, 21 May 2015.
letter from Lt. Gen. E. Mawela to Prof. Duncan, letter headed ‘Request for information regarding crowd management (peaceful) and crowd management (unrest) on IRIS system’, 6 March 2015.
Lt. Col. Vernon Day, interview with Peter Alexander, 20 Aug 2014.
SAPS, Enhancing of the Public Order Policing Capacity, slide 6;
Marks and Bruce, Groundhog Day, 353, 360.
Natasha Vally, National trends around protest action: mapping protest action in South Africa, presented to Centre for Sociological Research, 8.
Bilkis Omar, Crowd control: Can the public order police still deliver? SA Crime Quarterly 15 (2006), 1,
Johan Burger, Public violence: What does it mean for the police? Presentation to Institute for Security Studies seminar, 13 March 2014, slide 6.
Peter Alexander, Marikana commission of inquiry: from narratives towards history, Journal of Southern African Studies, 42:5 (2016).
SAPS, Enhancing of the public order policing capacity, slides 4, 37 and 37.
Jane Duncan, Protest nation: the right to protest in South Africa, Scottsville, UKZN Press, 2016, 42.
- Full text with authors information
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
SACQ is licenced under a creative commons licence (CC BY) that allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long a they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. They may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
Copyright for articles published is vested equally between the author/s, the Institute for Security Studies and the Centre of Criminology (UCT).