Vision for 2003 & Department's Tasks Ahead: briefing by Minister

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05 March 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 March 2003

Mr ME George (ANC)

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The Minister noted that the military’s function is not to combat crime; this is the responsibility of the police. To this end the commando system would be phased out and border security will become the responsibility of SAPS. His presentation briefly sketched the issues on the 2003 agenda of the SAPS. The Minister said that although SAPS was not responsible for protecting train commuters, a transport strategy is in the pipeline and costs will be shared between SAPS and Metrorail. The Department wants to create sector policing; reservists would be recruited across the board and trained for this purpose. CPUs will eventually be phased out and replaced by the Sexual Abuse and Family Violence Units.

Briefing by Minister
Minister Nqakula outlined his Department’s accomplishments to date. In 2000, the Department was concerned with restructuring to enable them to work in an organized manner and to pool in skills and knowledge.

Specialised Units
A new structure was established to address serious and violent crimes. This facilitated better co-ordination among the several isolated units. The Minister stressed that during this process of ‘merging’, contrary to general perceptions, skills and experience were not lost. Instead, these mergers lead to units becoming specialised. They were aware of resistance to changes.

In 1995, crimes against women were brought within the ambit of the Child Protection Unit, which now deals with sexual violence as well as family violence. There are currently 32 CPU’s and thirteen Family and Sexual Violence Units. Crimes against children and women are the responsibility of these 45 units. To this effect, 1476 SAPS members are allocated to these units. He informed Members that a meeting with Child Protection Units would be held next week.

Border function
The vision of the SAPS of peace and stability relates not only to South Africa, but to the continent as well. This includes people who find themselves in SA temporarily. The military’s function is not to combat crime; this is the responsibility of the police. They will however, discharge services to assist. Their role relates to national security.

The military have indicated that they will gradually reduce their participation in crime, including borderfunction and rural safety. To realise this, the army has given themselves six years to phase out these functions. This will commence in 2003 and by March 2009, they will have withdrawn from ordinary police functions. The commando system, which resides under the military and not the police, will be phased out.

Sector policing and reservists
The Department wants to create sector policing. They are colloquially termed, ‘ambassadors in crime fighting’, as they are closest to the people. In this way, they can handle social crime.
Ultimately, the aim is have to 35 000 sector police who would then be assisted by 100 000 reservists. These reservists would be recruited across the board, and this would include people who have assisted the Department on previous occasions. This would include people involved in inter alia, social crime, cross border crimes. However, everyone will be trained and retrained. Nine thousand reservists will be part of this structure.

These visions, he added, were reflective of going back to an organized structure, that is, where the police command structure will be in charge of what is happening.

The Minister noted that further interaction between the Department and the Portfolio Committee will create an opportunity for the Department to present details on operationalising these aims. There will be Task Teams taking command of these units.

Other activities of the Dept included revisiting previous issues of importance. These include:
-Increased technological capacity. For example, they now have a DNA database.
-Automated finger identification.
–Ballistics, which has been improved.

The Minister outlined some of the SAPS activities in 2003:
-SAPS will continue their involvement in pursuing syndicates of crime, murder and violent crimes. -They intend investing more effort in curtailing the illegal possession of firearms.
-Crimes against women and children will be addressed. The Department intends improving the capacity of Family Violence Units. The Domestic Violence Act presupposed the creation of a victim empowerment program and trauma centers for victims of abuse were therefore introduced in clinics.
-Activities relating to combating terrorism will continue.
-The commando system will be phased out.

Mr M Booi (ANC) identified four areas in which he required clarity. These related to:
-The vision of the Dept vis-à-vis salaries and promotions.
-The role of security companies in assisting the police.
-The role of the Internal Complaints Directorate (ICD) in assisting the police.
-‘Street communities’ and community policing.

The Minister said he wished to leave the issue of salaries and promotions temporarily in abeyance since discussions are presently taking place between the SAPS and Treasury.

He referred to municipality police, noting that this topic was also under discussion. He acknowledged that they need to build adequate experience but added that, generally, metro police structures were working well.

On the issue of private security companies, he stated he would like to invite the head of regulatory authorities to make a presentation to Members.

The Minister confirmed that the ICD were assisting the police. He believed that they were doing very good work as they empowered the police and were considered as an ally.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) was concerned about the CPU’s, reservists, community participation and policing forums. The fact that CPU’s were housed in police stations was a source of conflict between the police and the CPU. He asked whether there were any plans to remove the CPU from the premises of the police. He noted the risks incurred by reservists. He asked whether street/area forums would be formed and would be represented at police stations, or whether the existing police forums would be responsible for co-coordinating activities from the police to the street. Finally, he sought clarity on the financing of community policing forums.

The Minister explained that CPUs will eventually be phased out and replaced by the Sexual Abuse and Family Violence Units.

He explained that the deployment of reservists is currently taking place. He confirmed that they do receive an allowance. To facilitate this, the SAPS had set aside a substantial budget for these allowances: R 510 million annually. For instance, in the case of an individual reservist, they would take home approximately R 1200 per month. He added that the SAPS was about to commence a recruitment drive.

On the issue of commandos, he said that there are presently between 70 000 and 80 000 registered commandos. However, only 50 000 of these were active.

He said that SAPS is planning a summit with civil society on the subject of police killings. They aim to educate police officers to be ‘streetwise’.

Rev Meshoe (ACDP) asked whether people know the identity of reservists affiliated to their area.

The Minister explained that sector policing involves permanent police members. A call-up list exists. Reservists come from their own areas and therefore there is no need to introduce them to members of the community. They are under the command and control of the police commander.

Mr P Swart (DP) asked what the status was of Resolution 7 of 2002. He asked for details on the deployment of SAPS members, whether language was taken into consideration when members were deployed in different areas, and how the Department would ensure that service delivery was carried out.

This was not true, as both black and white farmers are attacked.
The Minister assured Members that no one would loose their work through the restructuring process in terms of Resolution 7.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) wanted clarity on whether the Department was now reverting to street committees and whether this was done in an organized way.

The Minister asked that Members not confuse themselves with street committees. He was talking about sector policing, and was not introducing something completely new.

Imam G Soloman (ANC) asked which Bills were likely to emanate from the Department this year.

The Minister could only recall the Terrorism Bill.

Members were interested to know whether the research by the CSIR on the impact of technology was utilized by the police.

The Minister said that the SAPS are very cautious about which reports are considered. The SAPS relies more on fact than theory. In other words, SAPS deal with ‘warm bodies’, whereas others deal with speculation.

He raised the issue of farm attacks, saying that he wanted to dispel the impression that farm attacks focus purely on white farmers.

He noted that firearms control would be discussed at a later stage. He also noted that the Secretariat will be facing restructuring.
The Deputy Minister, Mr Matthews, added that the forensic services of the SAPS were very well developed. Neighbouring countries often sought the assistance of the SAPS.

A Commissioner from the Department commented on the violence on trains. He said that there was no responsibility on the SAPS to protect train commuters. Nevertheless a transport strategy is in the pipeline. Approximately 14 000 new members were recruited for this transport policy component and costs will be jointly shared by the SAPS and Metrorail.

The Chairperson commented on police communication and was concerned about why the police were reluctant to ‘jack-up’ their communication.

The meeting was adjourned.


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