Dear Corruption Watch,
A bottle store in our area operates beyond the legal closing times. Besides breaking the law, this practice also attracts people to our suburb at late hours, including police, who patronise the store. Members of the community have reported the matter to the local SAPS, Metro Police, as well as the 10111 desk on several occasions. Other police officers arrive, chat with the owner and leave, but the problem has remained unresolved. I have heard the local police take ‘donations’ from the owner.
What can be done?
Not only is your neighbourhood confronted with an errant bottle store owner but with SAPS and metro police officers who fail to fulfil their duties. It seems as if these officers are refusing to investigate your complaint because they are benefitting from the illegal operation either through corruption in the form of bribes or because they enjoy visiting the bottle store themselves.
The first issue is that the bottle store is operating after the legislated opening hours. Each province has its own legislation governing retail liquor licensing. It will be an offence in terms of the provincial legislation to sell or supply liquor at times not permitted. To report such activity, you can lodge a complaint with your provincial liquor authority who are empowered to carry out inspections, and investigate complaints about licence contraventions. It does so independently and will be able to take action against the bottle store owner including revoking its licence if it continues to flout the law.
The other more serious issue is the failure of the police to properly address complaints about the illegal activity. Either collusion with the bottle store owner or accepting bribes is unacceptable and a criminal offence.
Approaching your local SAPS station or metro police office seems to have proved a fruitless course of action for your community. Where a matter involves more serious misconduct or criminal activity, you can report the matter to the Independent Police Investigating Directorate.
The IPID is an independent institution established in terms of the Constitution to ensure oversight over the SAPS and the Municipal Police Services through a mandate to conduct impartial investigations into criminal conduct by the members of these services. The IPID Act 1 of 2011 provides that certain matters such as deaths or rape in police custody must be investigated by the IPID.
The IPID must also investigate allegations of police corruption if it receives a complaint from a member of the public.
It is important to note that while the IPID has strict obligations to investigate in certain circumstances, its mandate does not extend to any and all matters involving the police such as a police officer’s failure to give feedback.
These matters are dealt with by the Police Inspectorate Division in the SAPS. You can also phone the SAPS Service Evaluation to report poor police service.
Since your situation involves police corruption, you are entitled to address your complaint to the IPID and they will be obliged to investigate. Complaints must be written on the form available on the IPID website. The form requires a detailed account of the complaint so you should much as you can about the police officers involved as well as the names of potential witnesses. The police have an obligation to cooperate with the investigations of the IPID and to respond to the recommendations.
It is unfortunate and unacceptable that SAPS and metro police service members collude with those who break the law and then ignore your complaint. There are other available avenues to have your complaint investigated and resolved.
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What can be done?