By Anna Cox, first published in The Star
It’s official – corruption is rampant and widespread among Joburg Metro Police Department officers, with over 50 percent having asked for bribes and one in four motorists being targeted.
And until senior management, City of Joburg officials and politicians acknowledge the extent of the corruption, there is unlikely to be an improvement.
These sentiments of Elgina Ndlovu, director of the JMPD Academy, were delivered at a training session on Tuesday to present the findings of a Corruption Watch study.
It was also revealed that the JMPD’s internal affairs division, which investigates cases of corruption, is not performing properly mainly because of friendships among staff and the power exerted by unions in disciplinary hearings.
Ndlovu was addressing JMPD trainers on the findings and recommendations of what should be done to address this.
She said corruption could be likened to alcoholism. Until you admitted there was a problem, there could be no solution, she said.
Although corruption is acknowledged among the leadership of the JMPD and the city, she said, it was severely understated in its scale with officials insisting that only a small minority were involved.
“They also blame the public for participating by paying the bribe. While that may be true, it may also be assumed that most people would be afraid to offer bribes if they feared that the JMPD officers would take action against them for doing so,” she said, adding that the message coming through was that corruption was acceptable.
For two years the JMPD has been identified as the metropolitan policing agency most associated with corruption in traffic enforcement, with corruption rising steadily between 2003 and 2010.
From 27 percent of motorists experiencing corruption relating to traffic fines in 1998, the figure has recently grown to a whopping 52.8 percent. Corruption related to driving licences has risen from 9 percent to 15 percent.
It was found that there was collusion between JMPD members and others in the prosecution system. A senior prosecutor at the Joburg traffic court had been quashing tickets for over two years before being suspended with 10 other officers.
There were serious consequences to corruption, said Ndlovu.
“For some, paying a bribe is a superficial convenience, something that enables them to treat the rules of the road with casual indifference.
“But this undermines the purpose of traffic laws, including the safety of drivers. It creates an impression that it is immaterial to government officials and that government condones the corruption.”
The report refers to the “JMPD routine”, a technique used by officers to solicit a bribe.
This is when an officer stops a vehicle and informs the driver that he has committed a serious offence, often exaggerating the severity and the harshness of the penalty.
Drivers are told they face severe fines, arrest and/or the impounding of their vehicles.
Motorists are then asked if there isn’t “some way of sorting this out”.
It was found that JMPD officers targeted mainly black drivers, foreigners and those driving expensive cars.
Bribes of between R50 and R3 000 are solicited.
Officers sometimes accompany motorists to ATMs to withdraw cash.
Corruption also involves extortion and robbery from drivers, and cases have been reported of JMPD members demanding sexual favours.
Among the recommendations to eliminate corruption is the compulsory wearing of uniforms with embroidered name tags. Some officers were already wearing the new uniform, but this would take time as all the uniforms were being changed, said Ndlovu.
Other recommendations were that Joburg’s leaders take responsibility for addressing corruption, and that a public campaign be launched to educate motorists to not pay bribes and rather report corruption.
The conduct of the internal affairs division needs attention and additional integrity measures should be introduced to ensure that members are beyond reproach.
The Corruption Report was conducted for Corruption Watch by independent researcher David Bruce between November 2010 and February this year.
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