South African Police Service: information sharing session with new National Commissioner

This premium content has been made freely available


04 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms L Chikunga (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the SAPS to share information on matters that would affect the interaction of the two bodies. The Committee was given a briefing on Administration, Visible Policing, Protection & Security Services and Crime Intelligence. Key questions included the number of suicides committed by SAPS members, restrictions placed by laws on intervention measures that police could use when approaching criminals, and SAPS members not wearing bullet-proof vests when on duty.

The SAPS stated that it still faced many challenges with regards to vehicle allocation and the monitoring of the use of SAPS vehicles. Committee members closely questioned the SAPS delegation and raised questions about disciplinary cases, IT equipment upgrading, firearms, releasing of statistics by SAPS, bullet-proof vest shortages and the moratorium on reservists.
National Commissioner Bheki Cele said that there was a need to review certain sections of the law so that police could be given more powers. Police should not be held accountable but rather the department should be held accountable about the manner in which police acted at a crime scene.

Meeting report

Presentation on Administration
Ms Manuku Nchwe, Divisional Commissioner: Career Management, SAPS, told the Committee that the mandate of the Administration Division was to develop policy, and manage the department and that included providing administrative support. The most important duties of the department were financing, application of funds, cash flow management and administration of and reporting on financial matters. The major achievement of the department was the fact that they had received unqualified reports and the fact that SAPS had fully utilised funds allocated since 2004 until 2009. One of the unit’s aims was to finalise and implement station structures in 2009.

With regards to supply chain management, the department had spent R 1105 million in 2008/09 on vehicles and its vehicle fleet totalled 41 921. Even though many police stations had been experiencing bullet-proof vest shortages, the department claimed that it had purchased 22 763 male bullet-proof vests in 2008/2009 and 12 978 female bullet-proof vests. There were sufficient bullet-proof vests, however members failed to wear them.

Visible Policing
Mr Arno Lamoer, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, SAPS, told the Committee that the mandate of the division was to provide for basic crime prevention and visible policing services at police stations. Its objective was to reduce contact crime by 7% a year, deter illegal activities at borderlines, discourage priority crimes by recovering 85% of lost or stolen firearms each year and recover 46% of stolen vehicles.

The division had been reducing the number of roadblocks and rather increasing the number of stop and search operations. This was because stop and search operations had a surprise element to them and were less expensive than roadblocks. The unit was also assisting other countries such as Mozambique, Namibia and Angola with firearm and ammunition recovery missions.

However locally the unit was facing many challenges with implementing sector policing and was not dealing well with managing its members at the borderline. One of the many reasons that they could not always detect drugs was that they had to physically offload trucks and did not have scanners to detect drugs without offloading trucks.

Another challenge was the fact that SAPS was still in the process of developing its own monitoring systems that could provide more reliable information on compliance to policies and the impact of programmes such as: the Anti-Rape strategy, the Domestic Violence Act, Youth Crime Prevention and Victim Empowerment Programmes.

Protection and Security Services
Mr Shaun Tshabalala, Divisional Commissioner: Protection and Security Services, SAPS, said the division rendered a protection and security service to all identified dignitaries and government interests, providing a VIP Protection (In-Transit) service and a Static Protection service to approved venues. It also performed the following functions: a security service to the Rail Transport Sector and Ports of Entry environment, including identified airports, harbours, border posts and priority rail transport areas.

The challenges faced by the unit were maintaining 0% security breaches, however in 4 out of 5 years there were 0% security breaches in the unit. With ports of entry, it was still very difficult for the unit to maintain or increase the recovery rate of illegal firearms, stolen vehicles and illegal drugs. And at times wanted people were not detected at ports of entry.

One of their major challenges was that trains passing through SA’s land ports were not subjected to border control inspection. As a result there was an illegal importation of contraband and illegal immigration.
The lack of 24 hour policing at land and sea ports also meant that there were persons passing through the ports after hours and SAPS equipment was also getting stolen. This was due to the lack of accommodation at remote ports of entry.
The Strategic Plan for the department was however to provide 98-99% VIP protection without security breaches and reduce contact crimes by 7-10%

Crime Intelligence
Mr Richard Mdluli, Divisional Commissioner: Intelligence, SAPS, stated that there were 8103 intelligence operations in place during 2008/9. However not much detail could be given about the nature of the operations due to the sensitivity of the information. These operations resulted in 14 444 arrests. However it was emphasised that the number of arrests did not represent the final tally for arrests, as follow up investigations could result in additional arrests.
The priority areas for the unit in terms of SAPS Strategic Plan 2005- 2010 were violent organised crime, property related and commercial crimes and also social fabric crimes.

The Chairperson reminded the members that the meeting was not an interrogation session, but an information session. Members should not ask about events that had occurred, but should ask questions about clarity. No question should be focused on a particular incident, and neither were they in the meeting to make the department account for itself. Instead, the meeting was about getting more information from the Department.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) referred to Programme one of the presentation and asked the SAPS if there was actually a plan for training. Was there a plan to train X number of people per year?

Mr Gary Kruser, Divisional Commissioner: Training, SAPS, replied that they did have a training plan and a copy would be sent to the Portfolio Committee. However they did put in place measures to ensure the effectiveness of training. They had evaluating tools in place at all their testing centres to see the impact of that training. SAPS also assessed the impact of the training by benchmarking it against other countries, such as Britain and Holland.

Mr Kruser said that they had adopted Outcome Based Education, the first stage was theory and the other stage was practical and they did their Portfolio of Evidence and thus demonstrated what they had learnt. The SAPS member would then be declared competent after completing their portfolio of evidence.

Mr Schneemann then moved to the issue of personnel. He noted that there were a number of SAPS members who took their lives and the lives of those who were close to them. He asked if there were any measures taken to deal with this trend. If so, were the measures found to be effective? Further, was anything placed at the police station to detect if members were under stress.

Mr Cele responded that he would like to know how many kids committed suicide when it came to exam time? Mr Cele said that he believed that there were many, so was it an SAPS problem or was it a societal problem? While SAPS members were part of the society it was easy for them to commit suicide due to the access that they had to guns and ammunition. Despite having said that, Mr Cele said that the department was coming up with a new five-year strategy because the strategy that SAPS had in place was exhausted.

Ms Bonang Mgwetha, SAPS Member, added to what Mr Cele had said, noting that they had EAS programs in place, which were productive; there was also a call centre number that members could call when they were undergoing stress. There was a reduction in the number of suicides.

Mr Schneemann referred to the section on Career Pathing in the presentation and asked for more clarity on the scarce skills allowance mentioned there. What was it doing and was it really effective?

Ms Nchwe replied that there was a Scarce Skills Framework in place and its aim was to retain the skills that were scarce in the organisation. The framework had actually assisted the organisation to retain the skills that they required.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) noted that there was a moratorium on taking more SAPS reservists and she understood that there was a restructuring of the SAPS system. However was that a national moratorium and for how long did the SAPS intend to have it in place, as there were many people who wanted to be reservists and they felt rejected when they were not accepted.

Mr Lamoer replied that they had started by recruiting reservists to be members of the SAPS. The process of recruiting reservists into SAPS would be finalised by the end of August 2009. The review of the Reservist policy would also be finalised by the end of the month and the recruitment of reservists would then be opened again.

Ms Kohler-Barnard asked the Police Commissioner when the Crime Statistics would be released, as they were supposed to be released in June, but that had not occurred. Again what was happening on the issue of the falsification of statistics? Were SAPS investigating the matter or had it been referred to the Independent Complaints Directorate?

Mr Cele replied that he had never said that there would be a moratorium on stats. Members could check any of his statements, he had never said that. All he said was that the matter would be discussed. The matter was raised before he came into office, even Interpol was discussing the issue of releasing stats. Mr Cele said that people who plan to commit crimes could use the statistics and those who wanted to fight crime could also use statistics. “If issuing statistics even on a daily basis enhances the fight against crime then let that be it, but if it enhanced other people to plan better then let that not be”.

Ms Kohler-Barnard stated that the Auditor-General and the Committee knew that border boundaries seemed not to exist, so were the SAPS actually in discussion with South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on who was going to look after the borders. She was asking this because there was always the suggestion that border duties should never have been taken away from the SANDF by SAPS.

Mr Cele replied that the border question was more about the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster
rather, and it was being discussed. He believed that the guarding of borders had to be a joint mission between the SANDF and the police, because there were things that the SANDF could not do at the borders, one of those was arrests. SANDF members did not like standing in court so if they arrested someone, they needed someone to stand in court. Again some of the things that had to happen at the borders could not only be dealt with by SAPS, as they were JCPS matters and thus it was necessary for them to be dealt with across the board.

Ms Kohler-Barnard then referred to the section on Administrative Career Management. She noted that the SAPS had progressed to 72% black, 10% coloured, and 14% white, however what were the intended targets, what was the ideal situation that SAPS wanted with regards to the matter of racial categorisation.

Ms Nchwe replied that SAPS was guided by the Employment Equity Act. At SAPS when they reviewed their annual human resource plan, they also reviewed their targets on employment equity and those targets were negotiated with trade unions and were signed off in those meetings by the Minister and submitted to the Minister of Labour.

A SAPS representative added that there was another plan that was being negotiated in the bargaining council and that it was going to be made available to the Committee once it was ready.

Ms Kohler-Barnard asked what was the number of vehicles that could make SAPS perform its duties well. What was the total number of vehicles needed for optimal service delivery? She asked this because she was still getting calls from people asking about the vehicle story. In some instances SAPS would ask her to go to the police station if she phoned in with a problem.

Further, Ms Kohler-Barnard asked SAPS if they had dealt with the inappropriate allocation of vehicles as there 4x4s in highly built up areas and no 4x4s in rural areas.

Ms Nchwe replied that SAPS used the allocation guide. SAPS had a system in place called
automated vehicle location (AVL) to mark the location of each vehicle. SAPS had 260211 AVLs in place and the process was still continuing. The more members used marked vehicles, the fewer chances there were of their abusing the vehicles.

Ms Kohler-Barnard asked if SAPS still had a shortage of firearms at station level, as that had been an issue. And were the number of firearms that SAPS was supplying to police stations replacing lost firearms or filling shortage areas?

A SAPS representative responded that provinces put forward requests of the type of firearms they needed and also stated for what they would be used. SAPS firearms were marked by means of a dot pin technology. Then the firearms would be checked regularly.

Ms Kohler-Barnard asked if the country had looked seriously at an improved high-tech bullet-proof vest, as many SAPS members were complaining about the weight of the bullet-proof vests. Again what was the situation with providing bullet-proof vests for reservists, as there seemed to be a shortage of bullet-proof vests?

Mr M George (COPE) reiterated this by asking if SAPS had any plans to improve their bullet-proof vests.

The Chairperson added that SAPS were always contradicting themselves when they met with the Committee. They would say that they had enough bullet-proof vests, however when one went to Hartebeeskop Police Station the very first trainee they met there did not have a bullet-proof vest. The trainee police officer would say that a vest had never been issued to him.

Ms Nchwe said that the current SAPS bullet-proof vests were introduced in 2005. This was done with the cooperation of the SAPS Science Laboratories who had approved the bullet-proof vest. The vests were found to be the best for the environment, however continual research was being done on available bullet-proof vests in the market to see if something lighter could be found. There were a number of bullet-proof vests on the market. However, they needed to pass SABS tests before they could use them. An instruction was released in July 2009 that all members must be issued with a bullet-proof vest as part of their personal inventory.

The SAPS representative added that reservists were issued with bullet-proof vests, but not as part of their personal inventory.

Ms D Schafer (DA) asked if there was enough money to buy more vehicles and if not how much more was needed. If in fact there was enough money, why was there a shortage of vehicles at police stations?
She asked when were SAPS members allowed to take vehicles home, as she believed that this created a shortage of vehicles for those members on duty.

Ms Schafer pointed that she did not see anything in the presentation about IT equipment in the section on equipment upgrades. What was SAPS doing about upgrading IT equipment, as there were stations that did not even have access to e-mails?

A member of the SAPS delegation responded that there was R400 million allocated for the process. Upgrading IT equipment was a continual process that was going to take years.

Mr George congratulated the National Commissioner on his new appointment, and he hoped that they were going to be able to work together as the fight against crime was important to everyone. However he thought that the Committee would be briefed about what SAPS was planning to do about the number of police killed on duty.

Further, he noted that there were a number of police who were functionally illiterate. How was this affecting them in carrying out their jobs? Was the department’s Adult-Based Education and Training (ABET) program a success?  He voiced his disappointment with the manner in which SAPS had been dealing with the Domestic Violence Act. He asked if this stemmed from the manner in which SAPS members were trained or what?

Mr Kruser replied that they had just reviewed their policy on domestic violence. The basic training included training members on how to deal with domestic violence matters. SAPS had also included new Victim Empowerment Programs at their centres, and above that, they had trained all the Commanders to supervise the process.

Mr George asked how many police were going through the disciplinary process, and how many of them were on suspension with full pay, as there were many people in the public service who were on suspension with full pay.

Ms Mgwetha responded that the number of cases that were outstanding in June were 331, the SAPS usually consolidated the cases on a monthly basis. Of the 331 cases, 126 were on suspension, 23 were suspensions with pay and 103 without pay. The 70% case completion target was a target set for the financial year and it did not mean that other cases were not going to get the necessary attention. SAPS regulations required that cases be finalised within 60 calendar days. However there were challenges as disciplinary cases were over regulated and thus they would also receive postponements from legal representatives of the employees.

Another member of the Committee stated that a statement was made in the presentation about the fact that policing was no more about muscle and speed. However he saw criminals resisting arrests, and sometimes saw criminals running away, so was it helpful to say that policing was no longer about muscle and speed? The member asked how secure would the bullet-proof vests be at the police station, as one would not like to hear that that the vests had been lost.

Ms Nchwe responded that it was not only about muscle and speed but also intelligence that they required of police.

Her colleague added that bullet-proof vests were stored safely in the strong rooms at the police stations.

Mr D Bloem (COPE) asked if the police were concerned about the relationship that they had with the community, as it seemed as if there was a breakdown of law in the communities. It seemed as if the criminals had put handcuffs on the police rather than the police putting handcuffs on the criminals.

Mr Bloem asked what the commissioners were doing to actually deal with the morale of the police, as it seemed like SAPS were losing their morale. He thought that they had made many mistakes when they came into power in 1994, as they took away some of the laws that were in place. Certain laws should be brought back.

Mr Cele responded that it was important for Parliament to revisit the law. Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act should be revisited. When criminals planned cash heists, they planned them properly and part of their planning was to kill whoever stood in their way. “When people found police shot and killed, it was not a mistake, it was part of the plan”. Police then needed to react on the properly planned action. Mr Cele said that the law must state, “when the police go to the crime scene, and they act and someone looks at whether they acted correctly and decisively, the organisation must take the responsibility and not the individual”. Mr Cele stated that it was either the policemen acted correctly or they would have to bury them.

The National Commissioner stated that Section 26 of the Police Act also needed to be revisited, as the section restricted policemen. The section said that if you go to a person’s property and you have been told that there was women and child being beaten or abused there, one needed to get permission from the occupier of the property to enter. “That can’t be”, the Commissioner said, as that would mean that the women inside would be killed. How can someone be screaming for help, and yet the policeman must ask for permission to break the door down. Mr Cele said that if the law remained in place, the person who was being abused would scream until they died, if the police had to wait until they were given permission to enter. So the legislative area was one area that needed to be revisited to help police do their work better. However, Mr Cele emphasised, that they were not encouraging Rookies and Cowboys to go around shooting people, yet they were also not encouraging police to die alone.

The Chairperson pointed out that SAPS had spoken about institutionalising a professional service ethos, but yet in the presentation they only covered disciplinary cases. She asked if this is what they meant when they were talking about work ethos. Was the understanding of SAPS with regards to work ethos limited to disciplining people or was it about ensuring that people conducted themselves ethically?

Ms Mgwetha responded that they had a Code of Conduct which was signed by SAPS members. The Code of Conduct sensitised members about what was expected from them and how they were expected to conduct themselves, again the disciplinary code was progressive. Before they took disciplinary steps towards SAPS members, the members would first receive counselling, a verbal warning, a written warning etc and thus they were not harsh towards SAPS members.

The Chairperson said that the Committee appreciated the fact that SAPS had been receiving unqualified audit reports and were also able to provide proof as required by the Auditor-General. However it was also noted that the Auditor General had raised some issues, such as the Asset Register, the AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locator), and vehicles. So how was the department dealing with these matters?

Mr Lamoer admitted that there were still problems being faced about the Asset Register. The SAPS representative also pleaded with members to understand that AVL was still in the implementation stages. There was also still a lot of work to be done with regards to the asset register, however SAPS had made significant progress.

The Chairperson asked how often did the department review its training curriculum, as criminals were always ahead in terms of planning and analysing. And the curriculum should address the current nature of crime. Further, how was SAPS evaluating the effectiveness of their training, as it was noted that there was a lack of effective management at police stations rather than a lack of resources. A person arrived at certain police stations and the Station Commissioner knew nothing about vehicles that were not functioning. So what was done with people who attended training and never implemented what they had learnt?

Mr Kruser said that all of the SAPS training programs were reviewed every two to three years of implementation. The training curriculum went through a complete review process. They also brought people from the operational environment to tell if there were any needs that the training did not address. The program had been reviewed two years ago, and was due to be reviewed again.

The Chairperson asked what SAPS were doing about the fact that many SAPS members had other qualifications such as B.Sc, were they redeploying them or keeping them in the same positions that they had been in.

Ms Nonkululeko Mbatha, Media Liaison Officer, SAPS, said that the Unit conducted skills audits to assess if people could be redeployed to areas where they were more competent. In the last two years, SAPS had redeployed many detectives back to organised crime after looking at educational qualifications and experience.

The Chairperson commented about the behaviour of the new SAPS members, during her visits to police stations. The SAPS members did not even bother to stand up when serving people, however the older members would stand.

The Chairperson then asked how were the SAPS Commissioners ensuring that it was not the members of the Committee who picked up these problems but the Commissioners themselves. Were they visiting police stations to ensure that it was not the Auditor General or the Committee that would tell them about the issues, but that they would know?

Mr Cele replied, saying that he had been having meetings with Provincial Police Commissioners, Deputy Police Commissioners and all 135 Gauteng Police Commissioners in Gauteng, and at those meetings they were discussing the issue of the behaviour of new police recruits. He was aware of the talk that was going around the townships with people saying that if one could not achieve anything in life, they had to join the police. However, this could not be as the SAPS had to be an organisation of achievers and excellent people, so they had to go to learning institutions to get the best police.

Programmes Two and Five: Discussion
Ms Kohler-Barnard noted it was said during the presentation that SAPS was no longer conducting as many road blocks as they used to, so what was the reason for the drop in roadblocks?

Mr Lamoer responded that Station Commissioners planned roadblocks. The drop in roadblocks was not a negative thing. It all depended on the need to conduct them. With the drop in roadblocks, there has been a rise in stop and search procedures. Stop and search boadblocksfs were more effective and had a surprise element.

Mr Cele said that road blocks were effective when they were multi disciplined with people from various departments. However they were also very expensive. And secondly the SAPS were always told that they must save right to the bone. Treasury compelled everyone to save.

In reply to Ms Kohler-Barnard asking why there were still some police stations that had not implemented sector policing, Mr Lamoer said that Sector Policing was going to be rolled out over a three-year period to all police stations.

Ms Kohler-Barnard then asked what had happened with the cases of people who had been run off the road by members of the SAPS Protection unit or have been shot at. Many members of the public had been approaching her with stories about how they were prevented from opening cases against the people who had committed such acts.

Mr Cele responded that South Africans simply ignored blue lights, however those who broke the law while they were driving with a blue light were in court.

Ms Schafer asked for more clarity on what the Anti-Rape Strategy was.

Mr Lamoer said that he would supply the Committee with a copy of the Anti-Rape Strategy. So that it could be interrogated in detail and he did not want to give only a little information on it.

Ms Schafer asked how many vehicles had been bought by the VIP Unit in relation to the number of vehicles that had been bought by SAPS in the last three years?

Mr Tshabalala from SAPS said that Protection and Security Services had 1900 vehicles. They did not purchase vehicles for ministers; they only purchased vehicles for Presidents and Deputies and Former Presidents and their spouses, visiting head of states also used those vehicles.

Mr Schneemann referred to the section in the presentation about the goods that had been confiscated by SAPS. He asked if the goods were actually confiscated at ports of entry or at the borders.

Mr Lamoer replied that the confiscations happened at the borderline and not at the ports of entry.

Mr Schneemann asked what measures were in place at police stations to ensure that PPS worked, and what did the department do to ensure that people at police stations understood the function of PPS. He asked if SAPS had the budget for the 2010 preparations? He also asked if there were rules and regulations governing when a person could use their blue lights. And were members trained or sensitised about the use of blue lights.

Mr Cele responded that the bottom question was when someone was using the blue lights, were they breaking the law and that was not the case. The SAPS Act and the Road Traffic Act simply stated the category of people who could use blue lights, and it merely said that when a person was on duty they were allowed to use the blue lights. A police officer was on duty immediately when the got into the SAPS vehicle. A person who drove with blue lights had to be a qualified member of a law enforcement unit.

Mr George noted that the SAPS had a very low target with regard to vehicle recovery. Did SAPS know the number of vehicles stolen? Why were they aiming to recover only a certain percentage of them?

Mr Lamoer replied that the unit had targets to recover stolen vehicles. However those targets did not mean that they would sit back when they had reached them. The unit also recovered vehicles that had been changed. They were restricted by many things such as the fact that many manufacturers did not microdot their vehicles. Further many of the vehicles that were stolen were taken to other countries. About a year ago when SAPS flew to another African country, the police helicopter in which he was travelling, picked up a signal from a vehicle that had been stolen in South Africa.

A Committee member asked how many kilograms of cannabis were found in schools.

Mr Lamoer said that information would be provided to the Committee at a later stage.

With regards to Railway Police, did the Police Commissioner have any intention of making that police unit fall under Visible Policing?

Mr Tshabalala replied that when the decision was taken, railway protection could have gone to the Department of Transport. However the decision to place railway police under Protection and Security Services was not permanent. Protection and Security Services was merely there to see that the unit was established.

Mr Bloem asked SAPS to state where they were storing recovered drugs because a month previously, members of the SAPS were found stealing drugs from a police station and those policemen were not charged.

Mr Lamoer said that the drugs were stored at police stations, but drugs like MX tables were sent to the forensic labs. Furthermore it was the Police Commisioner of Mpumalanga who took the decision not to charge to Police Officers who were found stealing drugs from a police station.

Referring to page 45 of the presentation, Ms Chikunga asked SAPS to explain or clarify the statement made about decreased security breaches.

Mr Tshabalala said that it was important for SAPS to know about security breaches, especially when those involved people’s lives. SAPS thus had statistics that it could make available to the Committee to clarify the matter about security breaches.

The Chairperson asked why borderline security was being managed by the Visible Policing Division instead of the Protection and Security Services division. She asked what lessons had SAPS learnt since rolling out the Sector Policing to police stations? And how had they effected changes to it?

A member of the SAPS delegation said that there was increased visibility of police vehicles in those areas, police vehicles were allocated to a certain sector.

Ms Kohler-Banard asked why did SAPS have very low conviction rates, even though at times they caught a criminal in the act. Why were they allowing some cases to fall through the cracks?

Mr Cele said that the last question dealt with the Dectectives Section and they had not touched on that section yet. He added that the country was in a period where eagles dared and intelligence reacted. So he pleaded for the Committee not to ask questions on matters of intelligence, as some of the information was confidential. Mr George added that this would be putting the security of the country at risk if the Committee had to interrogate the SAPS on matters of intelligence.

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: