The union representing the majority of the country’s police officers has described tackling crime in South Africa as an “impossible burden".
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said in the wake of the release of the annual crime statistics on Tuesday that there simply weren’t enough resources to protect the country’s citizens.
"Considering that the SAPS is constituted by 191‚000 police officials‚ a significant part of which are office-based within the bloated national and provincial managerial offices‚ who have to safe-keep a growing population of 57-million‚ it has become an impossible burden to tackle the challenge of crime accordingly‚" said spokesperson Richard Mamabolo.
He said that police officers were strained and stressed – and that morale was low.
"Much as the national police commissioner promises to increase the number of trainees to 7‚000 per year‚ we know very well that senior government officials have recently been flirting with the idea of cutting down public service jobs‚ with claims that the public wage bill was too high. This real threat to jobs has seen the demoralisation of many within the public service‚" said Mamabolo.
In releasing the crime stats in Cape Town‚ police minister Bheki Cele made a shock admission that the South African Police Service had substantially reduced its personnel.
“We are 10‚000 police fewer than last year‚” he said. “We have lost the United Nations norm of policing which says one policeman to 220 citizens. One police officer is not looking at almost double that.”
Mamabolo said: "[This] demonstrates the shortfall within which police are purported as being the first line of defence in keeping our communities safe.”
Mamabolo said there was nothing new in the crime stat figures.
"We view these statistics demonstrating that there have not been any drastic shifts in its pattern over the years‚ but most importantly that they reflect the broader socio-economic conditions beyond the police service’s scope.
“Statistical outcomes should not only be approached in abstract manner‚ but should result in a cohesive approach that would ensure all role players form part of building long-term solutions to these trends‚" Mamabolo said.
One alarming statistic the union made reference to was that there were 57 murders recorded each day‚ on average.
Mamabolo said the high number of murders raised a question about the number of guns on the streets at any given time.
Around 1.6-million of the 2.1-million crimes recorded in the 2017/18 financial year had been reported by the community to the police. Only around 434‚000 were recorded because of police action. Mamabolo said this was proof of a strained police system.
The crime statistics also revealed that 85 police officers had been killed in the last financial year alone.
While most of those did not die in the line of duty‚ Mamabolo said their calls for the police ministry to deal with cop murders had fallen on deaf ears‚ especially since some of those killed had been murdered in police stations.
"We have‚ since 2015‚ been calling for a plan to deal with police killings‚ yet nothing has materialised‚" Mamabolo said.