Corruption within the Police: submissions by Council for Advancement of South African Constitution (CASAC); Institute for Security Studies; South African Police Service

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12 September 2011
Chairperson: Ms L Chikunga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) noted a commitment to the establishment of a comprehensive societal response to corruption. There was a special focus on the creation of an independent anti-corruption agency or agencies. The Glenister judgement had concluded that there was a duty on the state to create an independent anti-corruption unit. Current units were not truly independent, in that they were responsible to the executive. An independent agency would need autonomy to protect it from political influence. Political will would be required to establish an independent agency.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) noted that police corruption was an occupational hazard in all countries. The ISS did not see the SAPS as corrupt, but corruption was widespread and systemic, and there were public perceptions of the police as corrupt. Challenges included the lack of whistle-blowing capacity, and the size of the SAPS, with 195 000 members. Organisational systems were weak. There was a campaign underway to promote professionalism in the SAPS.

The SAPS briefing stated that the SAPS had complied well thus far with the Minimum Anti-Corruption Capacity (MACC) directive issued by Cabinet in 2003. An Anti-Corruption Strategy was being developed, to be approved by the National Management Forum in the near future. This strategy was based on the four pillars of prevention; detection; investigation; and resolution. Prevention was currently prioritised. The chief objective was to develop an integrity management framework, and external communication of corruption awareness. Detection concerned the management of corruption and fraud reports. Investigation centered around corruption charges against SAPS members, and resolution prioritised the effective management of disciplinary cases within the SAPS.

In discussion, members asked if relations with other institutions could compromise an independent anti-corruption agency and when would training commence to sensitise SAPS members to corruption. A DA member asked in what way the independent agency would differ from the disbanded Scorpions. There was no definitive answer to that question. Outcomes related to the 479 corruption and fraud charges against SAPS members, received attention, as well as the delay with the re-establishment of the SAPS anti-corruption unit closed down in 2002. An ANC member remarked that there was silence about people who solicited acts of bribery, and that the resolution of disciplinary changes was taking too long. The remark was made that station commanders had to enforce an anti-corruption ethos to make it work. It was agreed that corruption was systemic, rather than the fault of corrupt individuals. A member remarked on the ISS pronouncement that the SAPS were not corrupt, and yet there were reports of widespread corruption. There was questions about the life-style audit, the effectiveness of changing legislation pertaining to the Hawks, and whether SAPS senior management was untouchable. There was a question about community involvement in recruitment. CASAC was asked what was meant by the political will required to establish an independent anti-corruption agency. The Chairperson asked SAPS what it was currently doing differently, and about international trends and successes in fighting corruption. There was a question about the role of the National Inspectorate. She concluded that all corruption had to be exposed. If people thought that the corruption would not be exposed, they would carry on doing it.

Meeting report

Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) briefing
Mr Lawson Naidoo, CASAC Executive Secretary, said that CASAC was one year old, and currently committed to the establishment of a comprehensive societal response to corruption. There was specific focus on the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency or agencies.

Mr Naidoo noted that the Glenister Judgement had ruled that there was a duty on the state to create an independent anti-corruption unit. Within the current institutional framework, anti-corruption units were not truly independent. They were responsible to the executive. An independent agency would need autonomy to protect it from political influence. It would require a three-pronged mandate of investigation, prevention and education. Ethics would be promoted in public and private sectors.

Challenges in the existing legal framework included inadequate protection for whistleblowers; non-enforcement of codes of conduct ensuring disclosure of interests; the absence of any regulation of party funding; and rules of criminal procedure that permitted accused persons to delay or circumvent the criminal process.

Mr Naidoo concluded that the Glenister judgement had created a timely window of opportunity to consider the most effective mechanisms to fight corruption. He advised that Parliament facilitate a national dialogue on that matter. Political will would be required to establish the independent anti-corruption agency.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) submission on corruption within the Police
Mr Gareth Newham, ISS Head: Crime and Justice Programme, said that police corruption was an occupational hazard. Corruption could occur when people had a monopoly of a situation, and could exercise discretion within it, without accountability. Police could deploy force and restrict civilian rights, often with very little supervision. Police corruption was found in all countries. It could easily become systemic. A police culture could form that valued loyalty over integrity.

Key causes of police corruption included environmental factors (such as marginalised groups like undocumented foreign nationals, and organised crime and illicit markets), organizational factors (such as inadequate leadership and poor management supervision and a police culture that fostered a code of silence and loyalty over integrity) as well as individual issues (low morale and financial mismanagement).

Mr Newham held that the SAPS could not be said to be a corrupt organisation. But various sources suggested that police corruption was widespread and systemic. There was evidence of a public perception that police were corrupt. 46% of respondents in the Afrobarometer study believed that “all” or “most” police were corrupt. An ISS study done in 2009 showed that 85% of police at three Gauteng stations believed that corruption was a major problem in the SAPS.

An Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) was established in the police in 1996, but closed down in 2002. In 2009, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) were established to replace the Scorpions.

Challenges in implementing anti-corruption strategies included the negative impact on SAPS management’s credibility to address corruption; the size of the SAPS; and the lack of a whistle-blowing policy. There was inadequate capacity within National Strategic Management, and no specialised Anti-Corruption unit. There were no proactive deterrents such as widespread and regular integrity tests across all stations.

The problem was not so much corrupt individuals as weak organisational systems. SAPS had a current commitment to recruit the right kind of people and equip them through training. SAPS leadership had to promote police professionalism by tackling misconduct, poor service delivery and corruption. Accountability had to be enhanced, and a culture of police integrity had to be built. Community engagement had to be promoted. Community action for promoting police professionalism was lacking, police corruption and abuse was not reported. Police could only win community support if they were perceived as courteous and fair. Gratitude shown by the public for police work was a strong motivating factor to avoid corruption.

A campaign to promote police professionalism would include hard and traditional media such as social media; website; downloadable products; sharing and dissemination of research; and partnerships.

South African Police Service (SAPS) on its Anti-Corruption Strategy (ACS)
Lieutenant General Bonang Mgwenya,
Deputy National Commissioner: Chief Operations Officer in the SAPS, noted that Cabinet had decided in 2003 that all public departments had to have a Minimum level of Anti-Corruption Capacity (MACC) within their departments. SAPS had been assessed in a DPSA audit and found to be 69% compliant to the MACC, and in seventh position out of 27 national departments. An internal workshop had been conducted to develop the Anti-Corruption Strategy (ACS).

The ACS consisted of four pillars: prevention; detection; investigation and resolution.
▪ The prevention pillar had been singled out as a priority, with the aim being to develop a professional culture that did not tolerate corruption and criminality. The priority of that pillar was to develop and implement an integrity management framework for SAPS. A “Look Out” campaign would be launched on 9 December 2011 to create awareness among members. There would be external communication of corruption awareness and reporting. The implementation of the ACS would be monitored and evaluated. Current and planned implementation of the prevention pillar were looked at in detail (see document).
▪ The detection pillar prioritised the management of reports and allegations of corruption and fraud submitted to the SAPS. Currently there were risk-based audits and inspections by the Internal Audit Component and the Inspectorate, and profiling and vetting of members by Crime Intelligence and the Hawks. Current information systems to report fraud would be updated.

▪ The investigation pillar was based on investigation of commercial crime criminal charges by the Directorate for Priority Crimes, as well as in the JCPS cluster. Currently there was emphasis on investigation by the SAPS of registered charges against SAPS members.

▪ The resolution pillar prioritised effective management of disciplinary cases, improvement of internal controls, and recovery of losses. 479 disciplinary cases against SAPS members had been recorded in 2010/11. Systems and controls compromised by corruption and fraud, would be improved. The finalising and approval of the ACS by the National Management Forum, was scheduled for the near future.

Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked CASAC if the proposed relationship with other institutions would not compromise independence.

Mr Naidoo replied that an independent agency could not be compromised by another state agency. It had to be structured at the outset in such a way that it could not be compromised. Whether agencies would have to be disbanded was a policy decision. If there were overlap, it would not necessarily affect the independence of the agency.

Ms Molebatsi asked SAPS when the Anti-Corruption Strategy was established, and what the success rate had been thus far. She asked when training to deal with corruption, had commenced.

General Mgwenya replied that training to deal with corruption was included as a module for 12 month trainees.

Mr Newham replied for the ISS that there had been a dismissal rate of 0.5%. SAPS had 195 000 members, hence a couple of hundred came to a very low percentage of the total. Reports on corruption could vary between different members at the same station. One would say 5% and another would say 60% to 70%. All in all the SAPS Anti-Corruption Strategy was a good one. Currently it covered everything. It was vital that the ideal of providing professional service be promoted in the SAPS.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) referred to the constitutional need for an independent anti-corruption agency. She remarked that the Scorpions had been closed down because of the very fact that it had been successful in exposing corruption amongst highly placed people. She asked how the proposed independent agency would differ from the Scorpions, and whether it was not a matter of reinventing the wheel. There had been a time when everyone was speaking against the Scorpions, but currently everyone seemed to recognise the need for something similar to it.

The Chairperson indicated that she also required an answer to that question.

Ms Kohler-Barnard referred to the SAPS presentation where mention was made of 479 disciplinary cases against SAPS members. She asked about outcomes in the form of dismissals or arrests, and whether SAPS dealt with its own members according to a different set of criteria. She asked if the guilty ones were still serving in SAPS, and if that number of cases could be seen as the tip of the iceberg.

General Mgwenya replied that a breakdown of the 479 cases could be given at a later stage.

Ms Kohler-Barnard went on to refer to the study mentioned by the ISS, which had found that the majority of South Africans had had personal experience of bribery. She asked why there was a delay to re-open the anti-corruption units that had been shut down by Jackie Selebi to protect himself, as she put it. She asked if such units were big enough to deal with corruption.

General Mgwenya replied that the need to restore disbanded units was recognised. Three months had been set aside for a work study.

Mr Naidoo answered that SAPS agencies to deal with internal corruption, were of great importance. There had to be an inward focus. All police officers had to take responsibility to root out corruption within their sphere of influence. SAPS as law enforcer had to be seen to be clean. The ISS had found the SAPS to be on the whole not corrupt. A national dialogue was urgently needed. A model had to be defined for anti-corruption agencies.

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) said with reference to the CASAC and ISS submissions, that there was silence about the person who solicited the bribery. Not enough was being said about people who became complicit to corruption by soliciting.

Mr Naidoo agreed that there was too much focus on the receiver, the public servant. There were two sides to a corrupt act. The payer and the taker were both corrupt. CASAC engaged with business leadership. Organised business was taking corruption seriously. The public had to be educated about the nature of corruption. Big business would seek weaknesses in structures that prevented corruption.

Mr Newham added that both corruptor and corruptee had an interest in keeping it secret. Early warning systems could be created to set up a sting.

Ms Van Wyk asked the SAPS about disciplinary actions that were taking too long. She asked what was being done to deal with such matters timeously. SAPS had made mention of disciplinary bodies. She was convinced that problems were concentrated at middle management level. If station managers could not enforce an anti-corruption ethos, it could not work. The provincial inspectorate would make recommendations to stations that were flatly ignored. The question was how the role of the inspectorate could be strengthened.

General Mgwenya responded that a quicker solution to disciplinary cases was a national priority. There were time frames for finalising cases, like 60 days, or 90 days for difficult ones. The problem was that when SAPS challenged the unions, their lawyers delayed the process. The disciplinary code was being revisited. She said that there had been improvement with regard to adhering to time frames. The process was being strengthened at all levels. Senior management was also targeted. There was corruption at all levels. Three weeks before, a senior member at Nelspruit had been caught for fraudulent claims which was being investigated. The current strategy was to strengthen own systems.

Ms Van Wyk agreed with the ISS that there were many good officers. The problem in terms of corruption was the system. There were set ways of dealing with career pathing and promotion. The Portfolio Committee had visited stations where there would be an excellent detective, who had solved 80% or 90% of his cases, passed over for promotion that would go to someone less deserving.

Mr Newham replied that it was vital to promote a culture of rendering professional service. Salaries were not all-important. There were constables who did not take bribes. They had to be supported and taken as role models. There were honest officers who reported that they were motivated by gratitude and appreciation for their services.

Ms Van Wyk asked if the
Independent Police Investigations Directorate (IPID) would be given a role.

General Mgwenya replied that SAPS sometimes seemed not to comply with the IPID. A forum would be created.

Mr H Chauke (ANC) asked CASAC how an independent anti-corruption agency would deliver service. He  remarked that the Anti-Corruption Strategy consisted mostly of outlined plans, but nothing significant had been done. SAPS was not able to tell how many cases had been solved.

Mr Chauke referred to the statement by the ISS that SAPS was not corrupt. Yet there was a lack of confidence in them. There were many studies that showed that many people were unsatisfied. He asked the ISS which study it considered accurate, and what the figures were. He noted that there might be a public perception of SAPS as being corrupt.

Mr Gareth Newham replied that a campaign was needed to tell the public what they could expect from the police. Other agencies could monitor arrests and people who were likely to attempt to bribe the police. He would choose the Afrobarometer studies as most reliable. Those studies had shown that 46% to 48% of the people approached had believed the police to be corrupt.

General Mgwenya added that there was awareness of the perception of the police as corrupt. SAPS communication strategy would deal with the external environment, through communications officers. Negative publicity would be dealt with.

Mr M Mncwango (IFP) asked about a lifestyle audit. He asked that the 479 disciplinary charges in SAPS be broken down according to provinces, for detail.

General Mgwenya replied that time frames for implementation of the lifestyle audit would be made available later. The same applied to a breakdown of the 479 disciplinary charges.

Mr Mncwango remarked to CASAC that the national dialogue about the independent agency had to involve the public. People had to be educated to take charge.

Mr Mncwango noted that the sole criterion for suspension was substantiability of evidence. Yet people were being suspended without evidence.

Mr Naidoo responded that it was not proper for a prosecutor to prosecute. The National Directorate of Prosecutions should not have that discretion. It was always in the public interest. Political interests had to be avoided.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked CASAC about the order to Parliament to amend legislation pertaining to the Hawks. He asked if such an approach could be expected to work. He remarked that SAPS had an impressive strategic plan, but no time lines had been given. The Anti-Corruption Strategy had to be improved and finalised.

General Mgwenya replied that the strategic plan would be finalised at the Management Forum.

Mr Naidoo replied that the Glenister judgement did not advise the creation of a new agency. The Hawks did not meet the criteria of independence. The judgement did not say how an agency should be kept out of politics. It had been left to Parliament to decide. He said that there was currently a window of opportunity. The most effective mechanism had to be looked for. The National Planning Commission had referred to numerous anti-corruption agencies that overlapped. There had to be a rethink in terms of approach. It would have to go beyond the narrow view of the court in the Glenister case.

Rev Meshoe remarked that disciplinary cases in SAPS took forever to deal with. Codes of conduct and ethics were not being adhered to. He asked what had been done to speed up such processes. He asked if senior management was untouchable. The public complained that nothing was being done about corruption among them. He asked what SAPS would be doing at all levels.

Ms P Mocumi (ANC) referred to slide 9 of the SAPS presentation. One of the criteria for the recruitment process was the involvement of the community to select recruits. She asked how communities would be involved.

General Mgwenya replied that college trainees went through a course that equipped them to involve communities in recruitment.

Ms Mocumi noted that stations had complained to the Committee on oversight visits about the shortage of vehicles.

General Mgwenya answered that management had to identify their needs.

Ms Mocumi related a shocking incident that had occurred on 4 September, when a child was knocked over and killed by a car driven by a reservist. The person responsible could not be traced, and the police cordon had been removed. She asked what was being done about command and control.

General Mgwenya replied that the abuse of vehicles led to civil claims. It was a focus area for the legal department.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked what was meant by the political will to fight corruption. He asked how an independent agency would remain politically unaffiliated.

Mr Naidoo replied that political will meant a commitment to create an independent agency. Resources and skilled people had to be mustered, to create an effective agency.

Mr Ndlovu commended the fact that SAPS included stakeholders like the ISS in projects. People were needed from outside and inside.

The Chairperson asked SAPS what was currently being done differently. At a place like Umkomaas, ordinary people knew that certain people were involved in corruption, but nobody was attending to such matters. She asked what had happened to people who had been named for corruption. There was a possibility that some of them might even have been promoted.

The Chairperson continued that there was still a lack of accountability and consequences for misconduct. Monitoring of implementation was lacking. There was a constant flow of documents, but nobody checked if documents were being implemented. The question was how accountability could be ensured. She asked if the strategy for sector community policing had been implemented.

The Chairperson asked CASAC how corruption could be combated. She asked what the current international trends were. Elsewhere it had been reduced for certain periods, and then gone up again. She asked what could realistically be achieved. She asked if private sector corruption was protected as it had been under Apartheid. The private sector was known to pay huge bribes to officials. It had happened that bribes were paid to secure tenders, and when the tender was not obtained to then expose the whole matter.

Mr Naidoo replied that corruption was a major South African problem. Hong Kong, Singapore and Botswana had all faced problems of endemic corruption, and there had been successes with resourced independent agencies. Independence did not mean not accountable to Parliament. It meant that the agency was not accountable to the Executive for operations. Checks and balances had to be built in, to ensure both independence and accountability.

Mr Newham added that corruption was indeed prevalent in the private sector. Private security companies had access to information that criminals bribed them for. The fight against corruption had to start with the police, to enable them to fight corruption elsewhere. Corruption had been successfully addressed in places like Hong Kong and New York. Professional and clean police conduct had to be promoted. It had to be seen to have good consequences, as corruption had to be seen to have bad consequences.

The Chairperson asked about the political affiliation of CASAC, whether it was politically clean. She remarked that CASAC seemed to focus exclusively on corruption in the public sphere, with the assumption that it was not prevalent in the private sector.

Mr Naidoo answered that CASAC was indeed political. The reason why corruption had been chosen as its focus area, was because it was so fundamental, also in civil society. It even occurred in church organisations. It was prevalent everywhere, and there had to be a comprehensive societal response to it. It would not do to attempt to deal with it only in the various silos. There had to be a national conversation. It was a national priority of government.

The Chairperson asked about the real extent of corruption in SAPS. There had been reports about bribes taken, and detectives having an interest in cases. There had been reports of cases where a detective would provide weapons for a crime, and then take charge of the case himself, so that there would be no investigation. Weapons were returned to police stores, and could not be traced. A police officer in Gauteng had paid cash for a BMW and other expensive items besides. The Portfolio Committee had to ask why such matters were not being investigated.

General Mgwenya replied that there was an implementation plan that assigned responsibilities to deal with the lack of accountability. During the following finance year, the Anti-Corruption Strategy would get into a performance agreement.

Ms Van Wyk remarked that the role of the National Inspectorate was pivotal, but it was ignored. The question was how to make SAPS take it more seriously. Crime Intelligence and the Inspectorate had to work together.

The Chairperson noted with regard to the Inspectorate, that the Committee had visited four provinces and had compiled a detailed report. When the Committee visited police stations, things happened.

She said that corruption ate away at moral fibre. People were thinking like hardened criminals. The attitude was to ask what one’s share of the budget had to be, and what one had to do to get that, even if it meant doing wrong. A cure had to be found.

Everyone concerned had to ask the question: am I corrupt, am I hiding a corrupt person, whether that was a family member or a colleague. If one was not corrupt, it would do well to say so publicly. All corruption had to be exposed. It would not do to be soft on any corruption, public or private. If people thought that they would not be exposed for corruption, they would carry on doing it. She agreed that systems had to be strengthened. The White Paper and the SAPS Act had to be reviewed. It was important that it could be said that SAPS members had been arrested and dismissed by the SAPS itself. There was capacity to do better.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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