SA’s 62‚000 police deficit falls short of UN norm for policing

11 September 2018 - 16:30 By Aron Hyman And Andisiwe Makinana
Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed that South Africa had 200‚000 police in 2010‚ but now was at 191‚000.
Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed that South Africa had 200‚000 police in 2010‚ but now was at 191‚000.
Image: Esa Alexander

Tuesday's shocking crime statistics were a product of the police "dropping the ball"‚ admitted Police Minister Bheki Cele.

He fell just short from placing the blame for the cutback of 10‚000 police officers at the feet of his predecessors‚ including Fikile Mbalula‚ whom he referred to as Honourable Minister Razzmatazz‚ but it was clear that the 2017/2018 book year was disastrous for the service and for society.

"We have lost the United Nations (UN) norm of policing which says one policeman to 220 citizens. One police officer is now looking at almost double that‚" said Cele.

Cele revealed that South Africa had 200‚000 police in 2010‚ but now was at 191‚000. "We are 10‚000 police down‚ which means we do have a problem ... "

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole further explained that the 10‚000 difference was between 2010 and now and not necessarily looking at a population increase versus the current number. "In the business case that we have put forward our deficit is 62‚000 ..."

Sitole said in this finanical year‚ the SAPS could only afford an intake of 3‚000 police but after engagement with Cele‚ they decided to cut somewhere else and increase the number to 5‚000. He said police colleges would be able to take up to 7‚000 recruits from next year and that number would be maintained until they closed the gap.

Murders in South Africa were up to an all time high of 20‚336 people‚ 1‚320 more than the previous year.

Head of crime statistics Major-General Norman Sekhukhune said that "crimes of fear" were on te increase.

But Cele vowed to place the heads of his crack team of police bosses "on the chopping block" to ensure that police efforts in the next year yielded results."

"On behalf of the government of South Africa I'm putting all the police generals’ heads on the block."

For a start he had already called together the security cluster for regular meetings after he shockingly revealed that they hadn't been meeting for two years.

He also said that despite what the public might think about VIP protection they‚ like other units in the police‚ were struggling with resources.

"Ministers phone me everyday saying their houses are not guarded. They phone me everyday! Last year the VIP members were working overtime‚ we couldn't pay them. The trips by the former president overseas‚ we couldn't honour his security needs‚" said Cele.

He addressed sexual violence against women by saying that the police's inadequate response to these crimes came down to training.

"I just imagine what does a raped woman say to a male police officer about what happened to her. She gets there and the male officer says: 'What happened?'‚" he said with a vacant stare‚ doing an imitation in a booming deep voice of a male officer.

"I have a wife and wonderful kids but I don't think I will ever be raped‚ so I can't talk for the victims. But we have dropped the ball on them‚" he said.

His new handpicked Directorate of Priority Crimes head‚ Advocate Godfrey Lebeya‚ said in the briefing that they were in the process of rebuilding their capacity to fight corruption in the state.

Lebeya said that members of the Hawks would have to be without reproach if they wanted to be effective at combating corruption and organised crime.

Cele was more open about the corruption in government and referred to specific examples like 5‚000 housing units which existed on the computer systems of a municipality in Limpopo but which were never built.

"They are there on the system! But they don't exist. There is a slab. A tender was paid for. The money was spent!"

He referred to another case in KwaZulu-Natal where a road was registered under a municipality and was supposed to have been built.

"I asked them to take me there. There was no road. To this day not a single tractor has driven on that road! But it's on the system. It shows the level of sophistication‚" he said.

"We are not going anywhere as a country if we don't deal with corruption and decisively so‚" he said.

When asked about what the police were doing about the spate of brazen cash-in-transit robberies he again gave the media a glimpse of the decay that he had inherited in the security cluster.

"We have pooled together all our resources from different clusters. I don't know why this wasn't done before. We now have coordination between the different units‚" he said.

He also attributed much of the success which had led to the arrests of 50 high profile cash-in-transit heist suspects to a renewed crime intelligence capacity.

He also addressed gangsterism in Cape Town saying it seemed to be a generational issue which affected a certain demographic group and that gang members were becoming younger and younger.

The highest single incident of murder which had resulted in the killing of 11 people in less than 30 minutes was attributed to an incident in Marikina informal settlement in Cape Town where gangsters had walked from door to door executing community members as reprisals for mob justice attacks against their fellow members.

The Western Cape also had seven of the top ten worst precincts when it came to murder but Cele said that the problem in the Western Cape could not be resolved by deploying the army. He said that environmental design was a root cause of many policing problems and that they were soon going to start with programmes to get mass community cooperation to tackle gangsterism.