As the South African Police Service (SAPS) prepares to release South Africa’s annual crime statistics, Corruption Watch and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) have released numbers that highlight the challenges of police leadership in a country with endemic crime and violence.
This is part of a campaign to change the way South Africa’s top cop and head of the Hawks are appointed. Police failings and high crime are the result of what the National Development Plan calls a “serial crisis of top management” in the police.
Many excellent police managers are not promoted or appointed to head the SAPS or the Hawks for political reasons, and the president is able to choose the national police commissioner entirely at his discretion and with no accountability.
The police leadership challenge is therefore political. The police can’t change it, but the president can.
Zero accountability in appointment of police top cops
The president of South Africa answers to nobody in the appointment of the South African Police Service national commissioner.
ONE honest and competent national police commissioner is needed to lead the force responsible for curbing corruption and crime in South Africa.
President Jacob Zuma has an immediate opportunity to radically improve policing in SA through the appointment of an experienced and ethical leader for the police. This would solve the long-standing crisis in police management and the deterioration in public safety.
TWO vacant posts – SAPS national commissioner and head of the Hawks.
These posts are currently filled by people in an acting capacity. The ISS and Corruption Watch call for a permanent SAPS national commissioner and head of the Hawks to be appointed following a transparent and competitive process as recommended by the National Development Plan.
THREE core principles proposed by Corruption Watch and the ISS.
Transparency, merit and public participation should guide the appointment of the new SAPS commissioner, in a competitive process.
FOUR top cops (three SAPS commissioners and one head of the Hawks) during the Zuma presidency whose terms of office ended in disgrace.
FIVE: The number of people in the post of SAPS national commissioner in the past eight years.
The high turn-over rate is due to many of these top cops responsible for South Africans’ safety being convicted of corruption, dismissed, suspended, found unfit or under investigation. If the individuals appointed as SAPS national commissioner and head of the Hawks were selected on merit through a transparent and competitive process, there would be little room for cronyism and appointment of the wrong person for political reasons. Both the police and public will benefit greatly.
Other alternate police figures
ZERO CORRUPTION reported in the official SAPS crime statistics.
In a country blighted by corruption, it makes no sense for police not to include this as a distinct crime category.
FOUR: The number of convictions that the police were able to secure in 2015/16 under the Prevention of Organised Crime act.
The legislation was passed to make it easier for the criminal justice system to tackle organised crime in South Africa.
SIX: The number of years Zuma loyalist and SAPS Head of Crime Intelligence Lt-General Richard Mdluli has been on suspension with full pay and benefits while facing prosecution in two separate criminal trials for murder and corruption. Many police officers who are dismissed face far less serious charges against them.
11: The number of convictions achieved by the police in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in 2015/16.
This legislation was passed by parliament to make it easier for the criminal justice system to tackle corruption in South Africa.
15 YEARS’ jail sentence
South Africa’s second post-1994 police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, was imprisoned for corruption. He was released on parole after serving two years. Selebi set the low ethical standards for future commissioners.
18: How old a South African must be to become SAPS national commissioner.
By contrast, constables need to be at least 25 years old. Unlike the commissioner, they also need to be of sound character, have a matric, and to be physically and mentally fit. The current selection criteria for South Africa’s top cop are less rigorous than for the lowest rank of constable.
20: The percentage increase in the number of murders between 2011/12 and 2015/16.
There were 3 119 more murders in 2016 than 2011. This means that 50 people are murdered every day on average in South Africa.
32: The percentage increase in the number of armed robberies reported to the police in South Africa between 2011/12 and 2015/16.
This translates into 365 armed attacks on our streets and in our homes every day on average. This is 88 more per day than was the case five years ago.
34 striking mineworkers killed by police.
The Marikana massacre in 2012 took place under the leadership of SAPS commissioner Riah Phiyega, who had no police experience but was nevertheless made a general. She damaged morale and performance by replacing senior officers with people lacking experience or integrity. To date no one has been held accountable for the unnecessary deaths and injuries of those who were victims of the Marikana massacre.
1 176 convictions in 2014/5 following Hawks investigations compared to 7 037 convictions in 2010/11.
This is a decline of 83%.
5 847 arrests made by the Hawks in 2014/5 compared to 14 793 arrests in 2010/11.
That is a drop of more than 60%.
R291-MILLION paid out in civil claims after courts ruled on illegal behaviour by the police in 2015/16. This is a 175% increase in civil claims against the police in the previous five years.
55-MILLION South Africans.
We are all affected by incompetent policing. We need an experienced and ethical police commissioner to lead South Africa’s police and get a grip on crime and violence.
R87-BILLION: The SAPS annual budget in 2017, up 49% in five years to 2015/16.
Despite SAPS resources more than doubling, crime intelligence has deteriorated, detection of murder and robbery decreased, and visible policing dropped. Clearly the police need better leadership and management to make effective use of their vast resources.
• Image from Wikimedia Commons