POPCRU on the recent developments within the SAPS

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has noted recent developments within the South African Police Service (SAPS) in relation to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) findings on the role of police during the 2021 July unrest, and the subsequent decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to terminate National Police Commissioner Khehla Sithole’s employment contract by mutual agreement.
Having observed reports on the findings, which among others cover the failure of the country’s intelligence services to provide early information regarding the unrest; this clearly pointed out that there should be swift action taken not only in addressing the noted inconsistencies but as well in preventing any future efforts to delegitimise the state, the security cluster and the erosion of our democratic system.
As a majority labour union in the SAPS, we are of the firm view that it is in the interest of stability and certainty that action is taken, but further of the view that the removal of individual personalities is on its own not a sufficient enough remedy in adequately addressing the deep-rooted challenges faced by policing in South Africa.
While the decision on Khehla Sithole is, for us, water under the bridge, we are concerned that the trend relating to our country’s post-democratic National Police Commissioners has not yielded any tangible successes, and this factor should further be extensively interrogated in avoiding future disappointments of such nature.
 The SAPS management has unfortunately become accustomed to internal strife to an extent that since the year 2000, there have been 8 National Police Commissioners, and with 7 of them serving since 2009. Among the 8, 4 held this position on an acting basis. This has had far-reaching consequences for the SAPS in its entirety and has demonstrated the instability of an organisation that is to this day in the midst of a wider crisis.
While the failure to turn the tide of crime around has partly been attributable to the lack of strategic leadership, demonstrated by continued infighting and the failure to utilise crime statistics as a tool to guide police action, the performance measures defined within the SAPS’s Strategic Plan 2020- 2025 which among others are aimed at creating a crime-free environment that is conducive to investment and economic growth have been in contrast to what has been taking place. This has further exposed the SAPS management’s lack of obligation to ensure credible mechanisms that enable regular measure of society’s perceptions about its ability to its mandate which is directly derived from Section 205 of the Constitution of South Africa, which is to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law.
With just 2 years into this defined plan, there is yet any indication that its intended mandate will be served.
Whether this mandate has been hindered by the lack of capacity, due to staff shortages and the uneven allocation of resources, as important an issue as it is, is neither here nor there because there has not been any demonstration to adapt with the available resources, as recently demonstrated by the underspending on public order policing and detectives.
With the Minister of Police mandated with exercising an oversight role, responsible for policy matters, the extent to which policies are implemented is the responsibility of the National Police Commissioner, and it was clearly due to the frustrating experiences of inaction that led to interventions.
The use of intelligence-led policing is in this regard vital as the changing nature of communities, and the shifting characteristics of crime and violence require advanced policing strategies which support law enforcement agencies’ entire operations. It is therefore imperative that police always have a policing concept that embraces intelligence as its cornerstone.
Chapter 12 of the National Development Plan 2030 clearly sets out that the criminal justice system is to have a single set of objectives, priorities and performance measurement targets. These include the demilitarisation of police, wherein police are selected and trained to become impartial, responsive to community needs, competent and inspire confidence.
For us, the leadership of the SAPS is not merely about the occupation of high office or rank, but about visionary leadership, good leadership skills, the motivation of staff, and the continuous improvement to service delivery.
The above obligations make the SAPS an important role player in our country’s transformation process, and we can therefore not afford to have people placed at managerial levels who are preoccupied with matters unrelated to the set objectives.
There is a dire need for a skills audit within the SAPS managerial positions, which will ensure the identification of the gaps in required competencies and assist with getting the relevant interventions to take the work of the organisation to greater heights.
We call on the president, as having the mandate to appoint a new National Police Commissioner, to first consider the deep-rooted challenges that have marred this position as we are in dire need of a person who does not abdicate their responsibilities.
We further call on the criminal justice cluster to work in unison and jointly account on crime statistics, with the SAPS accounting on the number of arrests, the judiciary on the number of prosecutions and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) accounting on the number of incarceration and their rehabilitation programs.

This should lead to an informed joint budget within the cluster, which will yield improved accountability, as opposed to the current settings where these organs are working in silos.
Issued by POPCRU on 28/02/2022

For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349