COSATU President Zingiswa Losi: Message of Support: POPCRU Policing Indaba

Comrade Programme Director, Deputy President Masemola,

The President of POPCRU, Cde. Cebekhulu,

National, Provincial and Local leadership of our mighty affiliate,

Distinguished guests, comrades and friends,

Please accept the revolutionary greetings of your Federation, COSATU.  We are excited that POPCRU, once again, is showing leadership by convening this indaba.  It shows that not only are we a trade union that exposes problems and defends members but that we also provide solutions that will advance the interests of the working class.

It is no exaggeration to say that we are under siege from rampant levels of criminality. No one is left untouched, whether it is young girl raped by a relative she trusted, a nurse who is terrorized by gangsters at hospitals, or are prison wardens who are stabbed by prisoners.  The latest crime stats paint a depressing picture, in particular the nearly doubling of police officers murdered in the line of duty.

We underestimated the damage done to our moral fabric as a society by the violence wrecked upon us be decades of apartheid brutality.  We have normalized violence to the point where it is estimated that half of all women and girls will be raped or assaulted in their lifetimes.  And few of their perpetrators will ever see in the inside of prison.

Whilst we must pump resources into our law enforcement institutions, we must equally be honest with ourselves.  If we are to overcome our levels of crime, then we must resolve their fundamental socio-economic underpinnings, namely a 42.1% unemployment rate, 60% youth unemployment, rising levels of poverty and the world’s most unequal society.  Government and the private sector must resolve that.  No matter how powerful the police is, they cannot resolve a 42% unemployment rate.

COSATU has been raising the alarm at Parliament about the declining SAPS headcount level.  It defies logic that a decade ago with 50 million people who had over 200 000 SAPS members.  Today with 60 million people SAPS has 172 000 members.  Whilst we welcome the recruitment plan for 10 000 this year and 5 000 next year, this is too little to keep pace with a 12 000 annual attrition rate let alone recover lost ground.

COSATU and POPCRU have been to Parliament together to plead for the redeployment of the two thirds of SAPS personnel deployed to desk jobs at SAPS Headquarters and Provincial Offices amongst other desk jobs to community policing and specialized units which are badly understaffed. 

We have been pleading for the upgrading of dilapidated SAPS Stations and most of whom lack safe rooms for survivors of Gender-Based Violence.  With so many SAPS vehicles no longer operational, how will they respond to call outs?

Our police and correctional services members risk their lives daily, yet we pay them an absolute pittance.  In 2020 the employer couldn’t even bother to pay them a simple increase to protect them from inflation.

The SAPS can and must play its role.  But so must the NPA, yet again it is battling critical vacancies.  The courts are a mess with cases taking a year to be concluded with endless postponements resulting in many complainants abandoning their cases.

Correctional Service facilities with overcrowding ratios of nearly 150% have become little more than universities for criminals with our staff being threatened daily.

The challenges within the Border Management Authority must be resolved quickly if we are to ensure our borders are secured.  This includes resourcing the SANDF too.

Government needs to show leadership and fix the state.  To do that Eskom, Transnet, Metro Rail, municipalities, public services and the law enforcement organs must be invested in and rebuilt.  This will enable the economy to grow, unemployment to fall and tax revenues to fund the state to be increased.  Austerity budget cuts will only serve to further weaken the state and depress the working class.

The state on its own cannot resolve everything.  Government cannot sit in our bedrooms whilst the husband beats his wife.  We must all take responsibility.

We need to join neighbourhood watches and participate in our Community Policing Forums.  SADTU must work with POPCRU to facilitate crime awareness programmes at our schools.  Boys must be taught to respect women and girls.

A stronger partnership is needed between NGOs and the SAPS.  Business too must offer its support and smart technology as is now being done on the Richards Bay coal line where the mining industry is availing drones to support the SAPS tackling cable theft.  We need the private security sector to be properly trained and to play a supportive role to the SAPS.  The SAPS can never be everywhere at all times. 

Similar collaboration is needed between traffic police and the SAPS.  Government must move with speed to enforce the AARTO Regulations.  It is a national disgrace that we lose 14 000 lives every year on our roads, most to reckless driving.  Those who cannot abide by the rules of the roads must not be allowed to drive. 

Parliament has passed progressive laws tackling GBV in 2021.  These will remain nice English words unless we ensure all SAPS, DCS, and other law enforcement officials are properly trained and resourced to ensure their implementation.  Equally the same applies to the SAPS Forensic Laboratory.

We are disappointed that government has been timid in tightening the Fire Arms Act.  We cannot remain a society armed to the teeth and then wonder why so many SAPS members and civilians are murdered every day. 

I know we are preaching to the converted here today.  In fact, you know the issues better than we will ever know them.  What we hope to see emerge from this progressive Indaba is a plan of action for POPCRU, for government, for society.  COSATU will support you in that plan.  We look forward to waging that battle with you.  Thank you.  Amandla!