9th POPCRU National Congress state of readiness statement

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) will be holding its 9th National Congress from Tuesday, 5th to the 8th November 2019 under the theme “30 Years of Working Class Consciousness, defending Workers’ Rights and building a Self-sustainable Union.”

This congress will be attended by 1200 POPCRU delegates from across our structures nationally; COSATU affiliates representatives, the alliance, local and international   guests.

As it takes place over the course of this week, we will be expecting principals from the departments we organise in to address members on specific strategic issues of concern, and the direction the various departments are considering.

It will also be taking place just after our Provincial Shop Stewards Councils (PSCs) had convened to express themselves on a variety of issues, most notably, the continuing challenges faced within institutions, frustrations over the non-implementation of signed agreements, the deteriorating extent of members’ working conditions and the lack of career growth across the public service, and most specifically within the criminal justice cluster to name a few.

It is in this regard that going into this Congress, members have highlighted the following concerning issues;

  • Challenges facing the Criminal Justice Cluster

While private sector workers are faced with retrenchments and the mechanisation of work, especially in the mining sector, and with the banking sector also shedding jobs, there are also plans underway to cut down on the public wage bill as announced by the Minister of Finance.

Over the past two years, we have been getting mixed signals from government, with the President allaying our fears at the 2018 Jobs summit, only to generate doubt after the Deputy President’s address to parliament where he affirmed the plan to cut down on jobs within the public service, followed by the then Minister of Finance is this vile call.

This uncertainty has been revived by the recent announcement in August this year, when the SAPS management announced at the Portfolio Committee on Police the instruction from the National Treasury to cut their budget over the next 3 years, something which will ultimately result in the loss of 23000 personnel.

This appalling announcement comes at a time when the majority of South Africans feel increasingly unsafe in their communities due to the escalating levels of violence and crime.

It also comes at a time when there’s a huge need to strengthen the entire criminal justice cluster which has for the longest of time been repurposed from its core mandate through infightings.

It is inconceivable that the National Treasury would request SAPS budget cuts, when our police service is already severely under-capacitated and under-resourced in terms of human and monetary capital.

Further budget cuts will only continue to hinder SAPS’ ability to provide visible policing and will condemn citizens to living in even greater fear than they do now.

If this is the way things are to unfold, the President’s commitment in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year to halve violent crime by 50% will be short-lived.

Currently SAPS has approximately 191 000 employees, a number which would drop to 167 000 by 2022/23.

This drop would definitely be a recipe for further disaster.

This will surely lead to 23 617 posts being lost, through an approximate R20 billion cut, over the next three financial years.

  • The NPA and private donor funding

The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) successes and failures rest on the ability, skills and knowledge of its people.

The depth and extent of the challenges, both internal and external, that are faced in revitalising the NPA are extensive.

Over the past decade, it has had 7 acting NDPPs, and over this period, it has been experiencing politically motivated changes in leadership, allegations of impropriety against some within its leadership, an exodus of skilled staff, a hiring freeze, a virtual end to its professional development training programs and fiscally induced vacancy rate that has brought its operations close to collapse in some centres.

In fact, there has been no recruitment in the NPA since 2016.

There is an urgent need to address the NPA leadership crisis to restore credibility by ensuring the review of high profile cases relating to decisions to prosecute or not to prosecute as part of restoring credibility.

One of our biggest threats as a country has been corruption. It has clearly become endemic in our society, and there seem to now be tremendous appetite and impatience for justice.

In obtaining more budgets to fulfil these needs and many other pressing issues in getting our institutions within the criminal justice cluster on the right path, we cannot rely on private donor funding.

We are totally against the suggestions made by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services that aim to have private donors as part of this revival as we strongly believe it will alter with the NPA’s independence.

The NPA is too important an institution to be at the mercy of individuals who might have vested interests, as this would mean that this law enforcement body would be indebted to private donors who are likely to be subjects of investigations at some point.

Knowing what motivates donors to give to an institution or organisation is vital for the growth and longevity of any relationship, and to this extent, we have unfortunately become accustomed to donors influencing the political and policy direction of many countries, all of which have not been for the public good.

We should ask ourselves: what agenda do they serve? In whose interest are these agendas?

We should never agree to private donations under the guise of saving our institutions, while coming with strings attached that would redirect the purpose and objectives of the NPA.

Long-term prospects, integrity, independence and serving the public good must always supersede the intent of any individual donor, no matter how generous.

If professional, independent processes are not observed the consequences can be severe, resulting in scandals that can bring this reviving institution into further disrepute, something we must move away from.

There is a need for the Minister and the new NPA boss to device other means to source funding from the fiscus for the institution.

Having observed the past decade, one would have to be extremely ignorant to accept that donors will not have ulterior motives in the running of the NPA.

There needs to be more collaboration between the police, the courts and the NPA, and stakeholder engagements need to be strengthened.

  • State Collective Bargaining

South Africa has one of the most progressive labour relations frameworks in the world that provides for structured and orderly collective bargaining.

With that being said, however, the actual practice of collective bargaining exhibits symptoms of dysfunctionality.

It is today, more often than not, characterised by prolonged wage negotiation processes and challenges to negotiated outcomes.

Responsibility for this may be apportioned in varying degrees to the parties engaged in collective bargaining, the manner in which they interact with each other at the process level and the political, social and economic environment in which collective bargaining plays out.

Some of the observations we have made include the fact that with the divisions entrenched within the criminal justice cluster, processes of meeting necessary concessions with management has on their part been utterly disregarded.

With continuous changes to the leadership roles within management areas, every time we seem to make progress, there would be an introduction of a new leadership which in turn disregards any progress made by their predecessors.

As a reminder, at every effected leadership change, we have seen different approaches towards the direction the SAPS and DCS in particular have taken.

From 2013, changes in the SAPS leadership from Nkosinathi Mthethwa, Nkosinathi Nhleko, Fikile Mbalula, and now Bheki Cele, this period of 5 years has seen five strategic changes within the SAPS, which has in effect failed to deal with the fundamental challenges faced therein. This has been due to the fact that every time progress is being made towards improving conditions, the person at the helm is removed, and therefore generating instability.

Our argument is that the many changes in the leadership role that have been effected within the criminal justice cluster have only served to weaken the cluster.

This continues to take place, and has been one of the major concerns by POPCRU members. The status quo cannot remain unchallenged.

  • Purpose of Congress

Our 9th National Congress will be making introspection into how we have fared thus far, and review the mandate delegates will be outlining for the next four years by looking into new ways of addressing existing and new challenges faced.

We have crafted a number of discussion documents and the delegates had an opportunity to interact with them at the level of PSCs.

Out of this Congress, specific strategic resolutions will be taken around all discussion documents.

We implore upon all invited Ministers to deliver the commitment to their deployed roles in advancing transformation and better lives for members and the public.

Issued by POPCRU on 03/11/2019

For more information contact;Richard Mamabolo-Popcru National Spokesperson- 066 135 4349