2003 Target Assessment: National Commissioner's briefing

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26 November 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

26 November 2003

Chairperson: Mr M George

Documents handed out:
Presentation by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service

Related documents
Private Security Industry Regulation Act
Private Security Industry Regulator Authority Presentation: Statistical Aspects
Private Security Industry Regulator Authority Presentation: Regulatory Aspects Part 1
Private Security Industry Regulator Authority Presentation: Regulatory Aspects Part 2
Private Security Industry Regulator Authority Presentation: Human Resources Aspects
Private Security Industry Regulator Authority Presentation: Financial Aspects
South African Police Service website

The SAPS Delegation:
Commissioner J Selebi, National Commissioner; Commissioner V Singh, Deputy Commissioner: Human Resource Management and Legal Services; Commissioner H Hlela, Deputy Commissioner: Logistical, Evaluation, Security and Protection Services; Commissioner L Eloff, Deputy Commissioner: Management, Financial and Administration Services; Commissioner L Pruis, Deputy Commissioner: Operational Services

The National Commissioner of the SAPS provided the Committee with statistics on some of the more serious crimes. The SAPS had developed various projects to ensure the rule of law and safety throughout the Republic, with special emphasis on rural and high-crime areas.

The Committee was supposed to have been briefed by the Chairperson of the Private Security Industry Authority (PSIRA). However, since there had been differences of understanding and interpretation of the Act establishing the Council, the Committee had mandated the Chair to look the matter in consultation with the Minister of Safety and Security and then report back.

The Chair welcomed the National Commissioner’s team and Mr J Jele, Chairperson of the Private Security Industry Authority (PSIRA). The Committee also remembered the National Commissioner’s briefing at the beginning of the year, that had outlined the Department’s goals and challenges. This meeting was thus a follow-up reportback. Before handing over to the National Commissioner, the Chair thanked his colleagues for the work they done throughout the year.

Adv P Swart (DA), Mr J Schippers (NNP) and Dr S Pheko (PAC) also congratulated the Chair and other members for a job well done. They noted that members had always displayed a high level of political maturity when it dealt with national security issues and had evaded sectoral political tendencies.

Mr M Booi (ANC) also thanked everyone who had supported the Committee, including the Chair, Members, Committee Clerks, the Department and the media, who had all ensured that they had successfully remained accountable to the public.

Briefing by the National Commissioner of South African Police Services
Commissioner J Selebi reported that, as the SAPS Annual Report for 2002/2003 has been made available to Members, this presentation mainly focused on April-September 2003. He said that their main objective was to ensure crime reduction, specifically in serious crimes that had been placed into three categories.

Firstly contact crimes were the most serious such as murder, attempted murder, rape, assaults etc. During the past financial year, there had been a decrease in all contact crimes with the exception of aggravated and other robberies - this met targets set by the National Crime Combating Strategy (NCCS) for April 2003. From 1 April - 30 September 2003, there had been a significant decrease in all contact crimes, including bank-related robberies and vehicle hijackings. Murder went down by 8%, attempted murder by 15%, rape by 2%, assault and grievous bodily harm by 2%, common assault by 1%, other robberies by 9%, bank related robberies and robberies in transit by 59% and vehicle hijackings by 11%. Their immediate challenge was ensuring that these decreases continued. There was still a formidable problem with other crimes, such as street, house and business robberies.

The second category of property-related crimes included theft from vehicles, break-ins to business and residential premises, and stock theft. These crimes were at a very similar level in South Africa compared with other Interpol countries. Nevetheless, over the discussed period, the police have achieved a major reduction in these crimes. Although there was a smaller decrease in residential house breaking, it was still very significant. Other crimes such as theft from vehicles decreased by 13%, business break-ins by 12%, stock theft by 9% and theft of vehicles by 8%.

The third category was crimes exposed by police actions such as possession of illicit firearms and drug-related crimes. Exposition of these had increased tremendously over the said period. Exposition of illegal possession of firearms had increased by 11% and drug-related crimes by 13%. Various special operational measures had been adopted and implemented, targetting particular troublespots, which had resulted in more that 200 000 suspects being arrested and 9 418 stolen vehicles were seized. Around 17 573 illegal firearms and 1 594 478 rounds of ammunition were seized and 4 075 suspects were arrested for illegal possession of illegal firearms and ammunitions. Some 84 crime syndicates had been neutralised and as the result, 320 syndicate leaders and about 832 gangmembers were arrested. This led to drugs to the value of R21 900 000 and stolen vehicles worth R23 700 000 being recovered and counterfeit goods to the value of R27 000 000 being seized by the police.

He thereafter called on all the relevant stakeholders, such as the Banking Council, community and community police forums and others, to work together with police to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to book so that crime could be eradicated.

Mr M Maziya (ANC) commended the National Commissioner and the inspiring committment displayed by the police. He noted that in a Joint Committee meeting between the Portfolio Committees on Safety and Defence, it had been revealed that there were still arms in the possession of commandos. Considering the failure of the SANDF to adequately account for those arms, he asked what the SAPS had done to resolve this. He further noted that in a previous National Commissioner report, it was alleged that certain departments were illegally in possession of firearms. Lastly, he asked what the police had done to verify allegations reported in the Sunday Times on 16 November that the Mayor of Tshwane had issued a license to a certain company to supply arms to the Metro police, although that company did not have a license to trade in arms. 

Commissioner L Eloff noted that the decision to phase out the SANDF commando units was taken at the January Lekgotla. A Joint Committee of SANDF and SAPS members was then established to assist in this. Following the SANDF exit plan, the SAPS had also developed a plan to replace the commandos with the reservist system. It was one function of this Joint Committee to oversee the audit of the commandos and their armaments and ammunition. Any unaccounted for arms would lead to a Board of Enquiry to investigate the matter. The SANDF had already found out cases where armaments were said to have been lost but had in fact been handed over for destruction.

Commissioner Selebi said that the SAPS had written letters to all State Departments requiring them to justify their continued possession of firearms. Should the departments not be able to do this adequately, the SAPS would collect all those firearms and destroy them. This was an ongoing process. The issue of the licensing of the Tshwane Mayor was still under investigation. The SAPS would ensure that systems were in place so that acts of this nature could not be repeated.

Mr E Ferreira (IFP) expressed her optimism regarding the presented statistics. He asked about public perceptions of the police and whether there were any systems to assist the police to react to complaints registe cases within a specified period. This question was prompted by his personal experience of police arriving at the scene of crime hours after it had been reported. Successes become futile if they were only on paper and people did not experience any change of behaviour in police actions.

Commissioner Selebi said that the issue of perception was very difficult, taking into account the history of SAPS, but they were making steady progress in improving their image. On the second issue, he said the police had to follow due processes of the law and could not allow themselves to be sidetracked by the complainants’ impatience. However, they were not infallible so a special directorate dealing with evaluation services and an inspectorate had been established under the Divisional Commissioner. While the SAPS would do anything to improve public perceptions, this could not be done overnight.

Mr R Zondo (ANC) also commended the police for their dedication and achievements that impacted on SA economic growth. Something would have to be done about salaries to motivate police to be more effective. He asked how the public was responding to police, especially in the fight against contact crimes and thus increased sector policing.

Commissioner Selebi said that the South African community had shown much interest in the work of the SAPS, evidenced by the many crime investigations assisted by tip-offs from community members. The more the police interact with the community, the more the community accepts them.

Adv Swart also commended the police on their achievements, which people sometimes did not appreciate because of the enormously high level of crime. He thought one way the Department could gauge public feeling would be through a victim survey, similar to the one done in 1997. He thereafter asked when Resolution 7 would be finalised and whether the problems in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng had been sorted out. He asked whether the Department had been able to reach its target with regard to recruitment and training, and also about the Department’s medium-term plans to improve the safety of people in the rural areas as many police were only on duty during the week. 

Commissioner Singh, with regard to the disputes within the Department, said that out of the few thousand disputes they had had in the Eastern Cape, they had reduced these to 493. After a specialist team was sent to assist the province with outstanding disputes, the team was able to resolve 322 and this only left 171 still unresolved. A Committee of Deputy National Commissioners was established to look at these outstanding issues and it was thus able to resolve 63 out of those 171 disputes. This meant that in Eastern Cape there are only about 108 people still disputing their placements. However since they have reviewed all the disputes, they were of the view that arbitration could proceed as all free and fair procedures had been followed.

In Gauteng they had received 233 disputes, of which 194 had been resolved. Of the 331 disputes they had received from North West province, they were able to resolve 204 and thus 127 were still disputed. In other provinces such as KZN and Limpopo, there are no disputes at all while there are four in the National Division, nine in the Northern Cape, and ten in Mpumalanga, and 35 in the Western Cape. Therefore, out of all the 1693 disputes the Department had received nationally, 1229 have been resolved and 400 were outstanding. She further noted that the Department currently employed about 131 434 people. Of this, 117 000 were much in place in their current posts while 12 500 were much in place in their redeployed posts and 2000 were much in place in those posts which required physical redeployment. Currently there were 83 vacant posts that could not be filled through normal internal advertising since they required special skills. Of the six people in the Senior Management Service (SMS), five had taken packages. Therefore out of 131 434 people, only one person has been declared to be in excess in SAPS. The Department was able to meet its target since it had enlisted and trained about 5956 police officials. There was a shortfall of 429 that would be made up in the February 2004 enlistment, and thus leave the Department with a shortfall of ten for this financial year.

Commissioner Eloff noted that the Commissioners’ last visits to the provinces aimed to promote the rule of safety in rural areas. A number of stations were identified as priorities. When the Commissioners went on provincial visits in December, they should take into account the crime prevention measures and also the uniqueness of the system in rural areas. Implementation of the rural safety plan and reservist system was a higher priority than the safety plan in urban areas. The Western Cape provided a good example of how a structure of deployment could effectively be used, taking into account the crime pattern in each particular area and the times crimes were mostly committed.

Dr Pheko said everyone should appreciate the difficult and dangerous work of the police. However, considering the very high level of murders and rapes, it was not really exciting news that these had only dropped by 8%, 15% and 2% respectively. He asked whether the illegal firearms and rounds of ammunition seized came from within the country and whether the suspects arrested were citizens. Similarly, he asked who ran the sophisticated illegal platinum and drug production laboratories. Lastly, he asked for reasons why the PAC office had been raided by the SAPS.

Commissioner Selebi said that it was not fair to compare rape and murder with robberies in transit since robberies tend to be committed by syndicates while the former we often committed by unidentifiable people. Syndicates could be identified through Organised Crime Threat Analysis (OCTA). On the issue of PAC office raid, he said he was not aware of this and after verification, would provide a response. He explained that whenever the police searched political party offices, this did not necessarily mean that they considered such a party to be a terrorist organisation. Where they have a reason to suspect that a crime has been committed and the suspects were believed to be hiding in those offices then the police may search them.

A Departmental official said that organised crime was not only confined to South African citizens but there were also other nationalities involved.

Mr Booi noted that there was much corruption within the force and thus asked how they visualised dealing with this issue, as well as transformation in the police service. He asked them to clarify South Afirica’s benefits from co-operation and training in other African countries. He further inquired whether they had managed to get on top of the gangsterism o the Cape Flats.

A Departmental official said that even though some of the units, such as the anti-corruptions unit, had been disbanded, the capacity within the remaining and integrated units had been expanded. Expertise from those disbanded units had been taken into the specialised units such as the organised crime unit, commercial crime unit and the serious and violent crimes unit.

Commissioner Singh said that in order to deal with corruption, two routes were being employed, namely the internal disciplinary route and the criminal route. The periods allowed for finalisation of these disciplinary cases had been shortened and training had also been provided. With regard to transformation, she said that since this would require an exhaustive explanation. In order to conform with the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, they had put in place an extensive affirmation action programmes, employment equity plans and evaluation programmes. As they were not able to meet their affirmative action targets in middle management, they had introduced an emerging leadership programme and women’s empowerment programme. On the next issue, the training and co-operation with other African countries was very important since it helped the SAPS in understanding the region better. Through such co-operation, a regional network was created and skills were transferred across the continent.

Commissioner Eloff responding that there is a comprehensive plan to deal with the gangsterism, especially in the Western Cape. In dealing with the organised crime element of the gangs, the SAPS has registered various organised crime projects where gangmembers were involved.

Mr Booi asked the Department how it intended to deal with statistics in the future as this issue had sparked much debate among members in the past.

Mr Schippers said that the praiseworthy police officers too often went unrecognised. He asked the Department to comment on this issue of statistics, bearing in mind the hype which the DA made after the crime statistics were issued. Among others, the allegation that crime had increased and that many more police should be deployed in the streets to fight crime.

Commissioner Selebi said statistics could not give a full picture. South Africa was the only country in the world that produced statistics every three months. He fully supported the Cabinet’s decision that statistics should only be made once a year.

Adv Swart asked the National Commissioner to explain what had transpired in the discussions at the beginning of the year regarding salaries, since he believed that there was a relationship between poor salaries and police corruption. 

Mr Schippers also asked the National Commissioner to clarify the Preparation Adjustment Bill. In this Bill passed by the Committee, it was said that R83.46 million would be allocated to salaries but another budget showed that only R46 million would be allocated to salaries and the rest would go on equipment.

The Chair said that it should be noted that there was new proposed SAPS legislation in the pipeline that, among other things, would deal with police salaries. This stemmed from a growing concern that police should be dealt with separately from other public servants and not in the Public Service Act.

Commissioner Selebi acknowledged there were discussions in this regard at an advanced stage. He and the Minister were involved throughout the process.

Mr Booi raised concerns about the workings of the Metro police and the unlimited power enjoyed by the Scorpions Unit. He asked whether the Department had any plans to integrate the Metro police to the SAPS and what it envisaged as the solution to the Scorpions issue.

The Chair said that members should note that the municipal police were the creation of an Act of Parliament and as such, could only be effectively dealt with if the enabling Act for their creation was amended.

Commissioner Selebi concurred that there appeared to be sufficient reasons why this Act should be revisited. It needed to be reworked to ensure that blanket permission allowing everyone to establish a municipal police was avoided. With regard to the Scorpions, he said that from the onset he made it clear that its formation would create an institutional nightmare since it linked the capacity to investigate and to prosecute. The issue was not about their power, but about the confusion since an investigator should be totally independent from a prosecutor.

The Chair thanked the National Commissioner’s team and appreciated the advancement of rural safety. He also noted on the killings of the police in the line of duty, especially in the Western Cape, and said that it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure that police were safeguarded. He thus urged all parties to make it part of their election campaign that an attack against police was an attack against the State and democracy.

Private Security Industry Regulation Authority
The Chair noted that this was a follow-up to the briefing of 10 September 2003, since all of that PSIRA delegation had been quite new to their posts. Thus the Committee felt that the Chairperson of the Authority, Mr J Jele, would have to be invited to provide responses to some of the concerns raised by members. He said that the Committee is very distressed with the manner in which the Council of PSIRA seems to understand and interpret the Private Security Industry Regulation Authority Act, since the provisions of S36 and 37 were quite explicit on whom the responsibility to run the private security lay. The Act gave this responsibility to the Council, through its Chairperson and other Councillors, who had the ultimate say on all affairs of PSIRA and not the Director, as the Council seemed to contend.

Mr J Jele (Chairperson: SIRA) however was of the view that the Act made a clear distinction between the governance and oversight function performed by the Council and the management function performed by the Director, as head of the Authority. He contended that the Council was not an executive body of the Authority but its Councillors were nonetheless comparable to non-executive Directors of a company. Therefore as they were not engaged in the full-time running of the Authority, they are dependent on the reports and recommendations provided by senior management.

Mr Booi felt that it would not be necessary at this stage to interpret the wording of the Act but rather that for the Council provide responses to those crucial issues raised by the Committee.

Mr Zondi, disappointed with the Council’s approach, suggested that the Chair, in consultation with the Minister, should be given a broad mandate to look at all issues. Therefore they should consider everything surrounding PSIRA and then report back to the Committee.

Mr Q Kgauwe (ANC), Mr Booi and Mr Maziya concurred and also felt that the Chair should be given an authority to add any persons he felt relevant to resolving this matter.

Adv Swart was persuaded to accepted the proposal. He still suggested they consider an investigating subcommittee after the Committee has been briefed by the Chair. He asked the Chair to also look at the regulations of the Council since they seemed to be problematic. 

The Chair accepted the mandate and also voiced out his dissatisfaction in the manner in which PSIRA has been run by the Council in the past.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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