Briefing by Minister on his vision for the Department

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12 June 2002
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Meeting report

12 June 2002

Mr M. E. George (ANC)

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The Minister outlined some of the priority areas his Department is addressing to combat crime. He said closer attention is being paid to the twin questions of transformation and resource allocation that matters of particular concern within the SAPS. The Minister pointed out that his Department is now moving from the stage of crime stabilisation to that of reduction.

Briefing by the Minister for Safety and Security
The Minister commenced his address by noting that he had so far received enormous support from Members of Parliament and that he greatly appreciated the honour of being invited to interact with the Committee. He said that it is necessary for him to draw from the Committee's wealth of experience in crime fighting.

The Minister said that he would briefly look at two important issues: transformation within the SAPS and the irksome question of resource allocation. He pointed out that he would deliver a more detailed statement in his budget address to Parliament which was due in a days time.

The Minister informed the Committee that his Department was looking at the entire spectrum of the demographic system within the SAPS. Shortly after the 1994 transition, there were some elements within the SAPS that were hostile to the democratic process but attitudes have significantly changed and the majority of the members are supportive of the democratic system. He observed that changes toward transformation have been drastic and that to a greater extend this process has boosted the morale within the service.

The Minister noted that the main area of concern is the middle level management where transformation is a big challenge to the Department. He said that at senior management level 75% of officers were mainly white and male but that in 1999 there were 37% black managers and at present this percentage has risen to 53%. This change, he noted, is contrasted with the middle level management where at 1995 only 11% were black and the number rose to 29% in 1999 whilst at present the figure has doubled to 44%.

The Minister pointed out that the junior ranks reflected the demographics of the country. In 1995 there were 32% black officers compared to 46% at present but this level is rapidly changing to reflect the demographics of the country. He said that at the entry level there is no problem with demographics given that in 1995 there were only 32% white and the majority were black.

On the issue of resource allocation, the Minister pointed out that the Department was putting emphasis on training in sophisticated crime fighting mechanisms since criminals have gone high tech. The SAPS are changing the approach to crime fighting by putting in place the right systems that would ensure effective detection and prevention of crime. He added that the SAPS are now implementing the sector policing methodology, which would ensure that personnel resources are put to maximum and effective use.

The Minister informed the Committee that the Department is putting in place systems that would ensure that personnel are highly trained and that mobility is effective: the two most critical instruments for combating crime. He added that the emphasis now is on pro-activity as opposed to reactivity and that proper partnerships would be forged with communities in order to ensure good results in intelligence gathering and hence prevention of criminal activity.

The Minister revealed that his Department would be training 24,000 new recruits within the space of three years and that this would be a big boast to crime fighting efforts.

On the controversial question of crime levels, the Minister assured the Committee that in fact, crime levels have been declining rapidly. He suggested that, comparatively speaking, crime levels were stabilising in most areas. He said that his Department was working hard to further reduce these levels.

The Minster concluded that his vision is very clear on the things he wants done immediately and those that are in the long-term plan. He noted that there has been resurgence in vigilantism, which is a crime and one that would not be tolerated. He added that the SANDF had withdrawn its personnel from the Cape flats but that the SAPS have pooled officers from other stations to replace them.

Mr Swart (DP) congratulated the Minister on his new assignment and wished him well. He assured him of the unwavering support of the Committee so as to enhance his efforts in crime fighting. He noted that the Minister is very much empowered in terms of budgetary allocations this year. The SAPS were losing as many as 4000 personnel annually. Hence the figure of 24,000 the Minster has indicated that is to be trained in three years time still remains low.

The Minister pointed out that human resource training was a full time occupation by the SAPS and one that would be attended to at all times. He contended that the peace time population ratio in South Africa compares very favourably to the rest of the world but that there were efforts to bring this to a level the Department would be comfortable with.

Mr Swart noted that whenever there is effective policing in the urban centre criminals tend to withdraw to the rural areas and asked how the Minister would ensure that rural stations are adequately resourced to deal with this problem.

The Minister explained that resource allocation was dependent on crime levels within a given area and that where there is a resurgence of criminal activity then resources are mobilised from other areas to address that particular challenge like has been the case with the Cape Flats.

Mr Swart concurred with the Minister that vigilantism was bad but pointed out that this is the only way the community tries to sent a message to the authorities that policing is not effective.

The Minister begged to differ with Mr Swart on the score of vigilantism. He expressed the contrary view that most communities do not support the often-violent activities of vigilant groups and that therefore this was not a response to the actual needs of the people.

Dr Pheko (PAC) said that he associates with the sentiments expressed by Mr Swart in wishing the Minister success in his daunting task of crime fighting. He assured the Minister that the Committee was very much united in its resolve to eradicate crime. He then asked whether there were any sociological studies to determine the causes of run-away crime in the country.

The Minister said the question of sociological studies was a very interesting one and that it had featured in Cabinet discussions, where the need for such research was acknowledged. He promised to release a report on this issue in due course but challenged sociology scholars to exercise their wits on this fascinating issue.

Mr Molebatsi (ANC) contended that the incidence of high levels of illiteracy impact negatively on consciousness and competence in the service. He then asked what plans, if any, the Minister had put in place to address this malignant handicap within the SAPS.

The Minster pointed out that his predecessor, the late Steve Tswete, had addressed the issue of illiteracy in the force in great detail in a statement he made to Parliament. He said that to eradicate illiteracy was not an event but a process that would run its time. He added that to this end his Department was actively involved in the government SITA program.

Mr Molebatsi (ANC) asked how the Minister would go about instilling a culture of human rights in the service.

The Minister said that the report by Internal Complaints Directorate effectively addresses the question of human rights in the service. Research had been undertaken in this area and acknowledged the instances of human rights abuses in the service but was quick to point out that there has been a marked decrease in these reports.

Mr Molebatsi (ANC) wanted to know what relationship, if any, the Minister had with educational institutions and the media.

As for relationship with the media, the Minister said that the interaction is excellent. He pointed out that he is an honorary member of the Pretoria press club, having been a journalist himself. He said that the Department has cordial relationships with educational institutions all over the country.

Ms Van Wyk (UDM) pointed out that conviction rates have been low and wanted to know the measures the Minister would put in place to address this perennial problem.

Ms Sosibo (ANC) also lamented that investigations by the police were wanting and that as a result many court cases are thrown out before they even go to full hearing. She asked for the Minister's take on this issue.

The Minister concurred that the conviction rates are a problem area but that there are teams that have been set up in Departmental clusters to look into ways and means to address the problem. However, he faulted the approach taken by analysts who look at arrests and compare this to convictions, which is a flawed process since some complaints are withdrawn before they reach the court.

Mr Swart asked why crime statistics have not been released to the public as yet.

The Minister acknowledged that crime statistic have not been released but hastened to explain that the strategy is to avoid piecemeal release of this information so that comprehensive figures are released annually.

Mr Swart asked the Minister to confirm or deny allegations to the effect that Scotland Yard was eyeing the SAPS personnel.

The Minster said that it was not true that the Scotland Yard intends recruiting from the SAPS ranks. The British High Commissioner had indeed clarified this issue.

Ms Sosibo wanted to know how the Minister would set about addressing the shortage of resources in police stations especially in rural areas.

The Minister acknowledged the fact that there was a dearth of resources in some areas but pointed out that there were mechanisms in place to address this problem. Resource shortages notwithstanding, there was effective policing in these areas and he promised to issue a detailed report on this issue at his budget presentation.

The Chair closed the meeting by giving a vote of thanks to the Minister and at the same time assuring him of the full support by the Committee in crime fighting efforts.


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