In a survey sent out to readers of The Cape Argus, The Star, Pretoria News and The Daily News, and broadcast to listeners of 567 Cape Talk and KFM, 94.7 Highveld Stereo, and Talk Radio 702 in November 2010, civil advocacy group Lead SA asked how many people had bribed a metro officer over a three-month period.
It turns out some 2 500 respondents admitted to having paid a bribe – which means the amount that changed hands could be very high.
A year later, in a follow up survey, the same question was posed and the results seemed to indicate a reduction in the practice of paying bribes: Only 572 respondents said they had coughed up the “lunch money”, as bribes are commonly referred to, over three months in 2011.
While the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) has become infamous for the high number of officers reported to be asking for – and accepting bribes – making it the largest area of concern in the country – it is not the only metro police department in the country taking part in the illegal practice.
The figures below shows where people said they had paid bribes, although this was just one survey and actual figures may differ vastly. Another Lead SA poll showed that residents of Johannesburg were also first to admit to having bribed metro police officers.
Here’s what the 2011 numbers looked like:
- Johannesburg 200
- Ekurhuleni 97
- Tshwane 15
- Mogale City 7
- KZN (excluding Durban) 7
- Mpumalanga 5
- Durban 4
- Cape Town 3
- Free State 2
- Vaal Area 2
- North West 2
- Limpopo 1
- Eastern Cape 1
In analysing the survey, Lead SA names Johannesburg as the country’s hotspot for both officers soliciting bribes and motorists who pay them. It also has the highest number of people who have admitted to engaging in the practice. The organisation gave a breakdown of where respondents had paid the said bribes:
The perception here is that people driving under the influence of alcohol and those driving “flashy” cars are prime targets, especially around William Nicol in Bryanston; the Montecasino area of Fourways (40 bribes); and the Witkoppen-Sunninghill-Woodmead area (16 bribes). Malibongwe Drive in Randburg proved a popular spot (20 bribes); as did Midrand (13 bribes), Rivonia (65 bribes) and Rosebank (12).
In a report by Abel Nkosi, head of internal affairs at the JMPD, figures show cases of suspicious conduct by JMPD officers as well as disciplinary procedures entered into to bring officers to book.
According to the statistics, a total of 184 of their 2600 metro police officers were under investigation for corruption in the period between 2009 and 2011. Of these, 37 have been found guilty of the crimes they were charged with, with another 32 cases pending.
Forms of disciplinary action taken against those found guilty varied from suspensions to dismissals, with 11 officers demoted from their previous ranks.
A total of 94 of the cases on the internal affairs database were found to be unsubstantiated.
The report addressed several forms of corruption, of which bribery was one. The others were fraud, extortion and theft.
Lead SA says that metro police officers aren’t the only culprits soliciting bribes – an increasing number of motorists report South African Police Service (SAPS) officers as soliciting bribes at road blocks at night, especially in the Sandton CBD. Motorists reported that a number of on-ramps and off-ramps are areas where bribes are solicited and paid.
Ekurhuleni – which remained number two on the list in the second year of the survey – shows a significant drop in corruption among officers, according to the survey.
However, OR Tambo International Airport, Edenvale and Boksburg again emerged as the metro area’s hotspots, with 17 people admitting to paying bribes in those regions.
Soliciting of bribes seems to be “across the board”, Lead SA says, including Springs with three bribes and Alberton with four. Overall, the poll shows very few bribes were reported from Tembisa and Katlehong.
Figures in the 2011 survey show that 10 respondents admitted to paying bribes in the Tshwane area. Many motorists reporting that drunken drivers are targeted on weekends in the CBD area.
KZN and Durban
A total of 11 cases were reported in the poll, most on the N3 toll road, with one bribe being paid in Pietermaritzburg.
Only three people admitted to paying a bribe in last three months – two in Cape Town and one in Beaufort West – even though the survey was punted by two radio stations and a regional paper.
Lead SA says that Krugersdorp, Van Reenen's Pass between KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, Heidelberg and Polokwane are other places where people reported to having paid bribes.
‘Consequences for cop should be greater’
Civilian Oversight Committees independently investigate any aspect of law enforcement activity to determine if misconduct exists where serious allegations have been made against an officer.
They also review investigations; receive appeals from people who have laid complaints and are not satisfied with investigation findings; and investigate or audit the fairness and thoroughness of an investigative process.
It appears that the committee in the Western Cape is extremely active, with a favourable track record of following up on its investigations.
Pieter van Dalen has been a member of the committee since 2006. With a background in law enforcement, his experience with acts of bribery and corruption among law enforcement officers is vast.
“It must be clear that both the person soliciting the bribe and the person paying the bribe are equally guilty in the eyes of the law,” he said.
“Of the two, however, the consequences for the law enforcement officer should be greater as he knows the law; his job is to uphold the law.”
Van Dalen works on a theory that 25% of the population is exceptionally honest and “will never knowingly break the law”. A further 25% “would steal from their own families”; and the 50% in the middle, can be swayed by us making an example of the 25% guilty parties”.
Another Cape-based member of the committee said he is happy that there is transparency within the region, pointing out that this group actually monitors all criminal and internal investigations and insists on consistency of punishment.
“Internal investigations are very important in the fight against bribery,” he said.
“Where a law enforcement officer commits any offence and his or her department tries to cover up, the committee will follow it up.”
“I am happy to say that this works extremely well in the Western Cape, and we believe that if an officer of the law sees another member committing any offence and does not report it, he should be charged as well.”
While Corruption Watch attempted to get more information about metro police officers across South Africa who have been reported, tried and convicted of bribery and corruption charges, the task is an almost impossible one.
The Civilian Oversight Committees are not at liberty to give information of cases under investigation, and promising anonymity appears not to work with many law enforcement departments and organisations that are in a position to assist but either didn’t want to comment or didn’t respond to us.
The internal affairs division of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, however, has provided us with some feedback – take a look at our latest infographic for more details.