POPCRU President’s Year-End Statement

On behalf of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU), we take this opportunity to wish our membership, workers in general, and the entire South African populace a safe festive season as the year 2023 comes to an end.

We wish all of you safe traveling on all modes of transport, and also caution against engaging in alcohol abuse and unnecessary expenditure during this period. The carnage on our roads is mostly as a result of alcohol abuse and the high rate of indebtedness is usually caused by the excessive expenditure during this period. 

The year 2023 was a very complicated one for the workers in general and for the union in particular. We saw our economy shedding jobs, levels of inequality continuing to rise and more people getting afflicted by the deepening poverty. Within the Criminal Justice Cluster (CJC), we witnessed an unparalleled challenge relating to police killings, with a recorded 90 lives lost at the hands of criminals since the beginning of the year.

·      Police killings

The continuous killing of police officers remains one of the most disturbing crimes that undermines proper functioning of the CJC in South Africa. Police officers have become targeted victims of the worst crime, with attacks and killings escalating in the country.

This unfolding national crisis has the potential of threatening the country’s peace and stability as majority of these dedicated men and women are killed on duty while preventing, combating or solving a crime whilst some are attacked or ambushed when conducting patrols and their official firearms and uniforms get stolen with the probable intention of committing further crimes.

Hence, we regard the killing of our members as an attack on the authority of the state as this undermines the rule of law. It therefore cannot be acceptable that police officers who each day, go out there to protect and to serve, are killed and the government remains unshaken. The government must publicly declare war against cold-blooded criminals who commit this deadly crime, and the current legislation must be amended to classify this barbaric act as treason. A mandatory life sentence for those found guilty must be effected as a matter of urgency to effectively prevent this plague.

·      Criminal Justice Cluster challenges

After almost three decades into contemporary South Africa, the CJC continues to be engulfed in several challenges, and if its ability to prevent, process and deter crime is any measure of its effectiveness, then reforming the system is now not only a necessity but a national priority.

Unfortunately, the system is not characterised by a single problem that can be resolved promptly, but is characterised by blockages, many of which cause delays in other parts of the criminal justice processes.

The system, stretching across the South African Police Service, Justice, and Correctional Services, has never been a synergised one. The links between various departments are weak and the involvement of other departments such as Social Development and Education – which have to play key roles in the prevention of crime – remains minimal.

Broadly, if the CJC was to function effectively, it should consist of both proactive and reactive components.

The challenges herein include persistently high levels of crime and violence, the need to respond to new forms of criminality as well as enhancing responses to criminal behaviours that have long pervaded societies; including corruption and violence against women and children. This Cluster is also overburdened with heavy caseloads and suffers from insufficient financial and human resources. This leads to various malfunctions, including delays in the administration of justice and overcrowded Correctional Centres that cannot fulfill their rehabilitative function, and subsequently high rates of reoffending.

·      Defending collective bargaining

While we continue to witness the manner in which load shedding seriously undermines the growth potential of the economy and threatens jobs, the Treasury continues with its conservative macroeconomic framework. This saw an emboldened treasury unilaterally deciding to cancel all vacant posts in the public service, committing itself to privatise some “non-strategic” state’s assets and then subsequently refusing to give public service workers decent wage increases.

They went ahead by undermining collective bargaining, including through the use of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). The government has not given the workers any say in deciding the content and direction of the MTBPS by unilaterally implementing below-inflation wage adjustments.

It is important to appreciate this against the background of the government having intransigently reneged from implementing the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council Resolution 1 of 2018. The government did NOT implement wage increases in the third year of the 2018 public service collective bargaining agreement.

The loss on the pension growth since the non-implementation of the last leg of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 clause 3.3 has amounted to average loss of 10,7% which will amount to over R1,2 million in 10 years implying that workers who will be going on pension in 2032 with lesser pension pay-out.

Workers must be ready to intensify campaigns against this onslaught, and all of these issues need a strong POPCRU, COSATU and a united working class.

·      Concerns over worker unity

We also recognise the fact that COSATU affiliates, especially within the public service are passing through a special period, which demands extraordinary dedication and urgency on our part in defence of the COSATU Joint Mandating Committee (JMC) and collective bargaining. The task of rebuilding critical tool lies at the hands of the workers.

It is rather unfortunate that during recent public sector wage negotiations, which are normally being managed and facilitated through the Joint Management Committee (JMC) structure, as sister unions within COSATU we could not build a consensus and maintain our unity on the demands. 

When some COSATU unions decided to withdraw from the 2022/23 financial year wage negotiations and embarked on industrial action against the paltry wage offer the employer tried to impose on workers, some in the council decided to stay put and ultimately, together with right-wing forces signed the wage agreement that was never thrashed out in the JMC as per regulatory framework of the structure.

However, this conduct was never novel, it was a precedent set in 2018 when some COSATU unions started to project itself as a big brother amongst other unions by denouncing the mandates of the JMC. In 2018 some COSATU unions refused to sign PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 after having participated fully in the process without raising any challenges during the consolidation of the mandate. This conduct, apart from creating divisions in the COSATU, it would also weaken and undermine the JMC standing as the facilitation tool for wage negotiations for COSATU affiliates. The regulatory norm is that any differences that might arise, including diverse mandates solicited from their respective members, unions must be able to engage and ultimately find one another. The reality is that, a divided JMC would compromise the hegemony of the COSATU affiliates in both PSCBC and the GPSSBC.

If we are to emerge victorious in these battles, then we must be united. Our members may provide different mandates but we must, as affiliates, find ways to bridge those gaps and walk together. As much as affiliates can carry diverse mandates, in building the strong working-class unity for economic liberation towards socialism, the federation must be able to manage these complex diversities. These differences in the JMC and Councils have unfortunately resulted in a public spat between the affiliates and giving an upper hand to an employer in these Bargaining Councils.

Unfortunately, all of these happened at a time when the organised workers’ component of the working class is at its weakest organisationally and politically. This means that there is a lot of work ahead for the workers in the coming year. Workers need to prepare themselves for the daunting task of building working class power in the work place, communities, and all other strategic centres of power including in the ANC itself. We also have the upcoming 2024 national general elections to prepare for.

·      Significant imprints

Though there have been challenges, we have also made significant imprints on our outlook towards defining our future role within the criminal justice cluster. In August this year, we held our Policing Indaba, which was premised on the intensification and expansion of work that the government is already undertaking with various sectors of society, business and communities to prevent and combat crime, as encouraged in the National Crime Prevention Strategy, which requires the mobilisation of broader responsibility and a more proactive approach on crime prevention.

Its main purpose was to significantly improve the current initiatives on service delivery, with the main focus on improving crime prevention and eradication initiatives within the Criminal Justice Cluster. For this, we have among others resolved to develop consensus on the role of government, civil society, private sector and communities in promoting safety outcomes, facilitate the establishment of institutional mechanisms for the implementation of Safety and Security, build networks and encourage collaboration and co-production of community safety initiatives, concretise the ideas shared during the Policing Indaba into a Program of Acton that takes into account the various roles of state and non-state actors in the fight against crime, develop a set of recommendations (policy and campaigns) to combat crime that addresses the role making use of the resources and capacities of civic groupings, private security, business, government agencies and the public police.

We also recently held our 10th POPCRU National Congress which carried on its shoulders the aspirations of our police, correctional and traffic officers. This took place just a day after we celebrated our 34 years of existence; demonstrating our long-term commitment to bringing about real change to our cluster and the South African society.

This overwhelmingly successful congress, marked by the surge in the spirit of unity and cohesion, crowned the progress that has been made over the years. More than anything, the success of this congress represents the triumph of the supremacy of our constitution, policies and the founding principles of the union, in defence of which POPCRU shall remain vigilant.

Though our sector continues to face uncertainties, with threats to budget cuts through austerity measures and the recently announced cost-containment measures by treasury, we remain confident that our Congress resolutions and resolves around the protection of jobs and promotion of our members remains part of our priorities over the next year and beyond.

·      Gratitude to public servants

Amidst the cloud of these uncertainties that seek to divide workers and minimise their bargaining powers, we ought to foster unity and remain loyal to our principles at all times, and remain acutely aware of our obligations to our membership, for it is them that we exist and should do everything possible to ensure they and their families escape the clutches of poverty and inequality.

We want to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those law enforcement officers who met their untimely deaths due to altercations within our correctional centres and the continued police killings.

We also wish to extend our condolences to the many victims of the senseless acts of Gender-Based Violence throughout our country.

Our men and women in blue continue to improve their skills in handling such matters, and we as a union will remain on the campaign trail in confronting this social ill that has ravaged our communities.

We are on the cusp of hope in our renewal project to fulfill the fresh mandate tasked to all those in leadership positions at all levels of our structure, which is a responsibility to lead and represent all our members with dedication and diligence.

We wish to pay special gratitude to members of POPCRU and those within the public service.

Every day, you as public servants go to work doing the business of our country. Sometimes you perform acts of heroism, but most often, you simply do your jobs to the best of your ability.

Yet public dialogue about your services is unrelentingly negative. You are described as a cost, a drag on the economy or as unaffordable and disposable.

Thank you for dedicating your careers, and in many cases your lives, to doing just that — serving the public. Your dedication to serving your communities is priceless.

We know it’s not always easy. In too many cases, you’re expected to achieve ambitious goals with outdated technology and shrinking budgets. While politicians make big claims, you have to work day in, day out so government services work. For many of you, that means helping the people in need access a wide variety of essential services. For some, it means being first responders in an emergency. For others, it means keeping our parks clean, managing budgets, and protecting our data from cyberattacks.

Law enforcement officers are vital law enforcement personnel tasked with safeguarding the lives and property of all residents. They are generally charged with maintaining peace and order in our communities. They’re on the front lines of danger.

There is no limit of time for their service as they stand on their feet 24/7 to provide guidance and help to people who might get trapped in this world of crime; thank you to all those people in uniforms who do their duty.

Every person leaves their family at home to go to work and usually comes back by evening, but in the job of the police, no one is sure that the person comes back alive all safe and composed; they deserve all the thankful wishes for the risk they take in their life to safe the people of the state. 

A lot of lives would have been sacrificed if it was not for the police, they save a life at times even by taking one and this job is not easy, thank you for this determination and support.

Your selflessness and integrity deserve our utmost respect. Thank you for being our everyday heroes. Thank you for embracing the challenges and responsibilities that come with being a police officer. You make a difference every day.

·      Gratitude to former POPCRU leaders

We also wish to thank former POPCRU leaders for the impactful vision they have displayed over the years, and most notable, former President Zizamele Cebekhulu who has been at the helm of this union for many years, through trials and tribulations.

Having him as our leader has been exceptionally impactful on the sustainability of our union, and we are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him and learn under his guidance. 

Working under his leadership has shaped our role in numerous ways. We have learned how to improve our service of our membership with humility and respect, and we couldn’t have done it without his wisdom. Thank you President Cebekhulu for your guidance and constant support. 

The way you handle problems as they arise and find practical solutions with ease is inspiring. We are grateful to have you as an example and for your guidance in shaping our future path. You lead with humility and are a true inspiration. We value working under your direction, and we’ve seen my leadership skills grow thanks to your guidance and commitment.

You’ve made it your mission to ensure each team member reaches their full potential, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. We see your tremendous efforts and appreciate your commitment to our growth. Thank you for your leadership and belief in us all.

As you are retired, we wish to thank you and your family for the years you have selflessly contributed towards building POPCRU to what it is today.

·      Palestine

We pledge our unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people in their quest for justice, peace and for the end of the genocide they are currently facing. The daily crimes committed against the Palestinian people, coupled with the suffocating blockades on Gaza, have created a humanitarian crisis that has persisted for far too long.

POPCRU has always been a key part of the international solidarity movement with various struggles across the world, including the struggles of the Palestinian people against apartheid rule and occupation. This is not only based on the South African experience of apartheid and colonialism, but on the intolerable abomination of all crimes against humanity.

We regard global solidarity as an important pillar of working-class struggles against all forms of oppression, exploitation, and injustice across the world.  Towards that end, POPCRU unequivocally reaffirms its support for the struggles of the people of Palestine to end apartheid, colonial occupation and for the right to independent statehood.

We call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure the criminal prosecution of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all those responsible for war crimes. The ICC must end its selective and targeted bias as well as its double standards in prosecuting war crimes.

We call for all countries of the committed to democracy, human rights and freedom from apartheid and colonialism; to diplomatically isolate Israel and close down Israeli embassies. We further reaffirm the resolutions of the United Nations’s (UN) World Conference against Racism (WCAR) declaring Zionism as racism and a crime against humanity.

We call on all progressive forces to mobilise and join the various pickets, including the events planned for the 29th of November UN Day of Solidarity with Palestine, and lastly, we call for an end to all forms of violence and for a cessation of hostilities towards a serious process of negotiations for a genuine settlement that accommodates Palestinians and Israelis, as equals in a united and democratic society with sovereign rights and freedoms for all.

·      Way forward

As workers go onto the festive season, they should also ready themselves for the battles that lie ahead and remember that both the centres of business and political power concede nothing without a demand and will give nothing away if a demand comes from a weak constituency.

We should also not forget to offer practical solidarity to vulnerable families, who have lost their livelihoods due to job losses. We should share with the poor and remember that there are more than 7.8 million unemployed people in this country and they will be struggling to make ends meet during this period. The principles of unity and solidarity should continue to guide us, as we enjoy this festive holiday season.

Members within the traffic cluster should not be deterred by all the unruly conduct on the part of some of the road users, and should work hard in ensuring the safety of all road users against all odds.

We take this opportunity to wish them all the best as they will be executing their important responsibilities on all the roads within the country.

Let us all work jointly is safeguarding the many important lives of our commuters, and in ensuring they return back to their loved ones safely.

Issued by POPCRU on 07/12/2023

For more information, contact:
Richard Mamabolo
Media & Communication Officer
Media & Communication
1 Marie Road, Richmond, Johannesburg, 2092
Phone 011 242 4600/15  Fax  086 625 3054
Cell 066 135 4349
Email mamabolor@popcru.org.za