In a historic meeting, the 2015 crime statistics of the South African Police Service (SAPS) were delivered to the Committee, during recess, in the presence of the Minister, Deputy Minister, Statistics South Africa and the National Commissioner of Police. The Minister began with an general overview of the statistics, speaking to their integrity and the Memorandum of Understanding with Statistics SA (StatsSA). He then provided a ten year longitudinal view in terms of the broad categories of contact crimes, contact-related crime, other serious crimes and property related crimes. Members were then taken through an anatomy of serious crimes, focusing on 17 community-reported serious crimes and three police-detected serious crimes. The presentation then looked at the performance outlook, what the statistics suggested and observations.
An executive manager from the national division of StatsSA then made brief remarks about the working relationship between the institution and SAPS to improve the quality of the statistics and the process of compiling the crime statistics using selected indicators, namely, methodological soundness, accuracy, comparability and coherence and integrity and timeliness.
The National Commissioner then presented the detail on the crime statistics, beginning with the reporting approach, reporting mandate and background, the domino effect of serious crimes and the causal and upstream issue driving crimes. Detail was provided on the attacks on and murders of police from 2012/13 to 2014/15, unrest and peaceful incidents from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2015 as a core business division and prevalent crime and crimes most feared by communities. The comprehensive presentation also covered the time it took to get to a police station, crime victim satisfaction levels, longitudinal highlights of the broad crime categories, key operational successes and overall performance per province. These figures included comparisons to the previous year.
The Committee then engaged on the statistics. They questioned if the task team set up following the recommendations of the Farlam Commission would look into the immediate shifting of resources in the short to medium term, to areas where there was a prevalence of crime, especially with contact and serious crimes. They also asked if the same task team would look into the problem of insufficient human resource capacity, especially in the firearms registry environment. Members raised further concerns about the proliferation of firearms and the lack of control of temporary firearm licences issued to foreign nationals, the reasons why such licences would need to be issued in the first place, consequences for stations and members not performing, and the conviction and prosecution of police members arrested for various crimes. Some questions were raised about the reliability of the statistics, particularly given the levels of non-reporting, whether the methodology used was yielding envisaged results, discrepancies in the reporting of crime, the impact of closing of dockets and archiving them on the statistics, and whether this was done in other provinces apart from the Free State, where it had been observed during an oversight visit. Members also wondered if it would be possible to have quarterly release of the statistics to establish what needed to be done immediately. They asked for linkages around prevalent crimes and socio-economic conditions in particular communities.
Members discussed the increase of various crime categories in Limpopo, causes of the trend of direct attacks on police members, factors attributed to the decrease in sexual offence-related crimes, the increased trend of gang activity and why SAPS seemed hesitant to make use of specialised anti-gang units, especially when the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit was working so well in that environment. They discussed whether violent protests were possibly influencing other categories of crime, and if there was a specific inter-departmental forum to deal with service delivery-related issues. Some Members thought the presentation merely repeated what the Committee already knew and suggested that instead drastic, immediate and large-scale plans were needed, to combat problems, with the involvement of other departments. They stressed the need to protect SAPS members and treat criminals with the strong measures they deserved. Others noted the small increases might be misleading, and South Africa should not think that crime was under control – many of the numbers, including murder, were still far too high. The Minister disputed the assertion that crime was not under control and said that there had been many far-reaching and important measures to combat crime. He stressed that the Committee and SAPS needed to work together and stressed also the importance of community involvement in changing attitudes, reporting crime and actively assisting the SAPS.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson thanked Members for their hard work on the oversight visit to the Free State last week, with them even working over the public holiday. He had received comprehensive responses from the Free State Provincial Commissioner dealing with all outstanding issues and they would be handed to Members to study.
He noted that this was a historic meeting in that it was the first time that the statistics on crime given by the SA Police Service (SAPS) would be made available to the Committee first, and he thanked the Minister for taking the initiative on this. It indicated the role of Parliament was important in terms of oversight and gave Members the first opportunity to reflect on the crime statistics.
Apologies were noted from Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) and Ms L Mabija (ANC)
An Overview of the Crime statistics
Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, in his introductory remarks, stated that he would begin with a general overview of the crime statistics, and the National Commissioner of Police would then delve into the actual statistical detail.
He said that crime statistics were not only about numbers and the performance of the police, but reflected the society at large. When reflecting on the figures, he asked all present to remember that victims of crime were not “just ink on paper” but human beings – real people with wants, needs, desires and families. The figures being presented today should make everyone in the country resolved to fight crime in whatever way they could, without taking the law into their own hands. SAPS were responsible for close to 54 million people and had a footprint of 1 138 police stations. SAPS had a personnel strength of 194 852, and the police to population distribution ratio was 1:358 (UN standard was 1:460).
In terms of integrity, SAPS continued to improve integrity of our statistics. That was why SAPS and Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this year for:
- Provision of technical support to SAPS, through StatsSA's production of policing data
- Support to SAPS in consolidating crime statistical definitions and counting rules to produce data for quality statistics
- Forming a Joint Working Party to implement projects for collaboration in the production of identified data
- Supporting SAPS to monitor and forecast trends in the country’s crime statistics
StatsSA had assessed the statistics against methodological soundness, accuracy, comparability and coherence and integrity and timeliness
Minister Nhleko then turned to the ten year longitudinal view, noting that over a period of ten years, SAPS had successfully decreased the following categories of crimes:
- Contact crimes (17.8%)
- Contact-related crimes (15.6%)
- Other serious crimes (7.6%)
- Property-related crimes (2.3%)
Looking at the anatomy of serious crime, the report focused on 17 community-reported serious crimes and three police-detected serious crimes. The percentages of the categories, with indicators of the change since the previous year were:
- 17 Community-reported Serious Crimes (83.4%) and contact crime (34.4% = 0.9% increase) including murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH), common assault, robbery aggravating and common robbery.
- Contact related crime (7% = 1.9% increase) including arson and malicious damage to property.
- Property related crime (30.8% = - 0.8%) including residential housebreaking, housebreaking other premises, theft of motor vehicle/ cycle, theft out of and from motor vehicle and stock theft.
- Other serious crime (27.8% = -2.2%) including ordinary theft (other theft), fraud related (commercial crime) and shop-lifting.
- Three police-detected Serious Crime (16.6%), included unlawful possession of firearm/ ammunition, driving under the influence (drugs and alcohol) and unlawful possession of and dealing in drugs.
Minister Nhleko then discussed the performance outlook. The 83.4 percent of the community reported serious crimes led to the arrests and charging of 1 795 947 persons – 4 808 were arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI). 1 043 life sentences were secured and imposed on 739 suspects while there were 680 life sentences against women and children (Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit). 686 police were arrested for various types of crimes in 2014/15. 36 186 lost/robbed vehicles reported were recovered. Police detected crime had increased by 16.6 percent in the reporting period, which resulted in 350 579 arrests.
The statistics suggested that South Africa continued to have violence as a feature of its social outlook in the South African society. In essence, the issue of contact crimes was a social phenomenon and was a matter that needed to be dealt with at a multi-disciplinary level across society. The causal link between the commission of crime and drug/alcohol abuse continued to be a standing features of driving up levels of crime despite closing down 37 979 unlicensed/illegal liquor premises and confiscating 1.7 billion litres of alcohol. It was also encouraging to note that the levels of police detection, compared to last year, were on the increase. There had been an increase in social unrest year-on-year, which suggested other pressure points and required action.
Some observations to be made included that the trends for the past ten and five years had shown a decrease whilst in the year under review there had been an increase in certain categories of crime as follows:
- Contact crimes – 0.9% increase
- Contact related crimes – 1.9% increase
- Property related crime – 0.8% decrease
- Other serious crime – 2.2% decrease
There was a continued overall decrease in crimes against women and children. There were still high levels of violence and aggression in South African society and this was a serious concern. Socio-economic inequality was also contributing to the levels of crime, along with the prevalence of firearms, even thousands had been destroyed every year. There was also an influx of undocumented immigrants, a resurgence of taxi-related violence and a thriving market for second-hand goods.
The National Development Plan (NDP) placed emphasis on the creation of partnerships in creating conditions of safety and security. In this regard, SAPS would continue to work and harness efforts, and remained committed to building partnerships with business and communities in fighting crime and eradication of criminality from our society.
Statistician General's Remarks
The Executive Manager of Statistics SA (National Statistics Division) said the Statistician General was required by the Statistics Act (No 6 of 999) to coordinate statistical production in the country. In this respect, StatsSA was working with SAPS on improving the quality of crime statistics. The collaboration between the two dated back to 2011, when SAPS, in its quest to improve the quality of policing statistics, established a National Crime Statistics Task Team on which StatsSA was represented. One of the deliverables of the task team was a draft policy on crime statistics which would be finalised and implemented soon.
The collaboration between StatsSA and SAPS had culminated in the two entering into a MOU in April 2015. The broad areas of collaboration included, inter alia:
-provision of technical support to the SAPS in its production of policing data
-Supporting SAPS in its consolidation of crime statistical definitions to enable the production of data for quality statistics
StatsSA and SAPS were in the process of forming a joint working party to implement projects and collaboration in the identifying of data and supporting SAPS to monitor focused trends in the country’s crime statistics. As a consequence of the MOU, the Statistician General had introduced a clearance process through which the quality of crime statistics and publication would be ascertained. A clearance committee was constituted by the Statistician General to evaluate and authenticate the quality of crime statistics in line with SA’s statistical quality assessment framework. The main focus of the assessment was on the processes of compiling the crime statistics using selected indicators within the following dimensions:
-comparability and coherence
-integrity and timeliness
Measures not yet assessed were relevance, accessibility and interpretative ability. The assessment outcome indicated compliance of the SAPS processes with most aspects of the selected quality dimensions. Challenges identified through the assessment processes were such that SAPS could effect the necessary improvements without any major difficulty.
The 2014/15 crime statistics publication was endorsed and its use by stakeholders was encouraged.
SAPS: Crime statistics
Ms Riah Phiyega, National Commissioner of Police, began her presentation on the SAPS Annual Statistics by discussing the reporting approach and broad categories of crime under question. With the reporting of serious crimes, there were 17 community reported serious crimes (83.4% - 1 795 947 charges) and four police detected serious crimes (16.6% - 356 919 charges).
Members were then taken through the percentage contribution per broad category, of contact crimes, contact-related crimes, property-related crimes and other serious crime (see attached presentation for full details).
The reporting background and mandate of SAPS for the compilation of the national annual statistics was informed by the Constitution, Outcome 3 of the NDP and a 2001 Cabinet decision. Methodology, crime counting rules, crime statistics management and policy enhancement and crime data quality management were taken into account.
National Comm Phiyega then discussed the domino effect of serious crimes emphasising that there was a need for peaceful surroundings to avoid escalation of crime. She then moved on to look at the causal and upstream issues driving crimes including:
-taxi violence: route disputes, leadership contestations
-drug circulation: drug master plan not fully implemented; SA was now a consumer, manufacturer and transit route for drugs. From 2014 to date, 237 South Africans were arrested elsewhere as drug mules;
-proliferation of firearms: ineffective regulation of licences; corruption; firearms coming in from borders; ownership of large amounts of firearms by private sector; no clear picture of baseline against which firearms confiscated
The Committee was then taken through police attacks and murders from 2012/13 to 2014/15 and it was noted that the number of attacks and murders increased year on year. There was effective police push back and members worked hard to continue to bring these attacks down. According to the provincial breakdown, the Western Cape province was leading in both attacks and murders.
With unrest-related and peaceful incidents from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2015 (a core business diversion) the numbers of incidents largely increased and in terms of the provincial breakdown Gauteng was leading both peaceful and unrest related activities.
Members were then informed of the prevalent crimes and crimes most feared by communities after which there was discussion on the amount of time it took to get to a police station in terms of access to police services from the victims perspective – this was at 66% (less than 30 minutes). Following this was a look at crime victims’ levels of satisfaction.
Comm Phiyega then looked at the longitudinal highlights in the broad crime categories. Key operational successes in 2014/15 and the percentage change in 17 community-reported serious crimes and crimes detected as a result of police action.
With 21 serious crimes and the overall performance per province, the top performing provinces included the Free State, Eastern Cape and KZN while the lowest performers were the Western Cape and Limpopo and the rest of the provinces were in the mid-level.
Nat Comm Phiyega noted that that numbers of contact crimes remained stubborn in this financial year and she highlighted that contact crimes were policed after the fact and required partnerships with communities. There was an increase in the degree of violence in communities especially with reference to violent protests. Municipalities were a key role player in supporting policing efforts, especially with the enforcement of laws which was an important municipal factor. A moral regeneration programme was a noticeable void. The proliferation of firearms continued to be a notable driver of criminality. There needed to be tightening of border management. Criminality, corruption and other unethical practices by law enforcement agencies contributed toward driving crime up. All levels of government were to ensure early intervention to mitigate issues relating to service delivery and other community related grievances. There also needed to be crucial collaboration with Southern African police chiefs in dealing with transnational crimes.
Crimes against women and children remained a priority for government and SAPS. There was an increase in the overall conviction rate of these crimes and decreases in the overall crimes against women in this period.
Crime statistics were not only about numbers and performance but were a mirror reflection of society at large.
The Chairperson, noting there was a slight increase in serious crime and contact crime, asked the Minister if the task team (from the turnaround strategy) could be expected to look at immediate shifting of resources, in the short to medium term, to areas where there was currently a prevalence of crimes, especially with regard to contact and serious crime. He referred here specifically to the relocation of units and deployment of resources.
With the realignment of SAPS internally, one of the issues raised by the National Commissioner’s presentation was the question of firearms. During the Committee's oversight visit last week to the Free State, it was reported the Free State Central Firearms Register (CFR) environment dwindled from 47 to 12 members during the last five years. The members indicated that they were not able to deal with the issues at hand as they did not have enough human resource capacity. He wondered if the task team, to be led by the Deputy Minister, would look at such deficiencies. He pointed out that without capacity, there would not be turnaround on the issue of illegal firearms.
Minister Nhleko responded that he had already highlighted to the Committee that, for the turnaround strategy that followed the report of the Farlam Commission, SAPS would essentially be concentrating on three areas, namely: dealing with people as a resource, the culture associated with people, and business processes. On the question of priorities there were a number of dynamics to take into account. These influenced policing and deployment of resources. Other factors to consider included the prevalence and occurrence of a particular type and character of criminality in a particular area. He was sure the task team, to be led by the Deputy Minister, would need to interrogate a number of such factors and then take decisions accordingly when dealing with particular circumstances. With the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) there was a task team working on this particular matter along with the firearm control legislation in the process. There were loopholes in the current firearm legislation and at some point these issues needed to be confronted. There were historical dynamics in how the Firearms Control Act was crafted, stemming from the 1902 Anglo Boer War and treaties thereafter. This also informed the gun culture in society. A more detailed loophole in the legislation was that there was no limitation on sport shooting or hunting firearms owned. The Minister was of the view that this non-limitation was being exploited. There was also no tracking of ammunition acquired. These were some of the issues to confront, along with the background of the CFR. Further discussion was needed with the Committee on the issue of the CFR and the Firearms Control legislation.
Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) thanked the team for the release of the crime statistics. There was an outcry about the reliability of the statistics and she asked if the methodology being used was yielding the envisioned results. She appreciated the involvement of StatsSA but questioned if a situation would be seen in future where there would be an institution to do crime statistics independently.
Minister Nhleko noted that SAPS was constitutionally mandated to deal with the issue of peace, stability and crime and there was no other institution which was given such a constitutional mandate. SAPS utilised a particular system where crimes were reported to police stations. He raised this to emphasis that SAPS could only work on the basis of what had been reported to the police.
Comm Phiyega added that StatsSA also had a mandate as a state institution to coordinate statistical production country wide and the crime statistics was one such element. There were strict protocols for the work done in this area, and she explained why there was a clearance committee for independence and general assurance.
Ms M Mmola (ANC) asked how the statistics were quality controlled if StatsSA did not have the responsibility to release the statistics. What efforts were made to ensure SAPS members captured crimes correctly at the station level on the Crime Administration System (CAS) system?
Mr J Maake (ANC) was concerned about the increase of various categories of crimes in Limpopo according to the statistics, and asked what was the particular problem in this province. He wondered if this was due to the influx of foreign nationals. He then questioned the attacks on police members, noting that there seemed to be a trend of direct attacks against the police, and asked why this was so, if this was the case.
Minister Nhleko responded that police attacks were a development of great concern – they represented the most backward of South Africans. Police were the extension of society, so if society killed police, they were killing themselves. Social consciousness must be raised, as a means of intervention. There were cases where the attacks were sporadic or uncoordinated but the situation must be continue to be analysed. For example, on the East Rand, some of the incidents were assuming the number gang sort of approach – this indicated the kind of problem being experienced and the kind of response it required because the attacks were no longer sporadic but being carried out by organised formations. Many other trends could be identified in different parts of the country and these needed to be studied and analysed to inform the manner in which the Service prepared and secured itself. Responsible political leadership needed to be activated around such an issue. Any criticism levelled against SAPS needed to be balanced. These were professional members and their work needed to be valued – so political leaders could not “dish out messages” to ordinary people on the ground suggesting that the government did not take the police seriously and therefore they were of no value.
Mr A M Shaik Emam (NFP), while pleased the statistics were being released directly to the Committee for the first time, was not really satisfied by what he heard today. All of these factors had been mentioned repeatedly before – everyone knew there were drug problems, alcohol problems, corrupt police officers, and other issues were heard year in and year out. He wanted to know what drastic measures and exact steps would be taken to deal with and combat these issue,s in collaboration with all other relevant departments. He thought there should be major plans across government to brainstorm and find solutions, otherwise very serious challenges would be faced. Police killings were very serious for when one officer died it affected the entire community; moreover it had psychological effects on hundreds of other officers around the country who did not believe that they were being protected by government or the Service itself. An example was an officer receiving R400 per month for injury cover, yet putting his life at risk. Police officers were often shot in the head and neck, yet were simply given bullet proof vests, which were more often than not un-checked. He wanted to hear what exactly was being done, because police officers were targets. Criminals should be treated with the contempt they deserved, but they were being protected at the expense of police officers. These officers needed to be taken good care of if they were expected to fight crime. One of the reasons officers became corrupt was because of the conditions they worked under.
Minister Nhleko agreed with the need for a multi-disciplinary approach in dealing with some of these issues and associated issues. SAPS was working with other stakeholders like Department of Social Development and there was coordination on the work around drug trafficking nationally and internationally. With drug and human trafficking, the problem often extended beyond the borders of the country – there was an international dynamic and modus operandi which required work on the entire value chain.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) welcomed the release of the statistics to the Committee for the first time but he also doubted the statistics because of discrepancies in the reporting of crime. He provided a personal account of reporting a break in at his home in Acacia Park, where the investigating officer documented the crime as damage to state property – this was what was practised when it came to the reporting of crime. He also received numerous complaints from members of the public who laid charges at a police station but if there was follow up, it just disappeared and they did not even receive a case number. He did not think the statistics were a true reflection of what was happening in SA even though StatsSA was brought on board to verify statistical information. The minor percentage increases in certain crimes might seem nominal, but looking at the detail there was a big problem. For example, for the last two years, for aggravated robbery, there was an increase of 21.3%, while there was an increase of 9.6% over the last two years for murder. Why were there no statistics for robberies at residential properties? It was always a category of crime and one of the most feared crimes by South Africans. South Africans would be misleading themselves if they were to suggest that small increases per category meant crime in SA was under control. Looking at the information in more detail, he thought crime in SA was not under control and the simple 9.6% increase in murder alone proved this. This meant that last year, the country had over 17 835 murders. This could not continue.
Minister Nhleko said that citing one particular individual experience could not be used to decide the fate of the entire spectrum of crime statistics in SA. He thought this was a skewed form of thinking, but at the same time he was not condoning what had happened. Acacia Park was state property but perhaps the incident could be recorded under an additional category and this was something to consider in the refinement of how incidents were captured. To say that crime was not under control was simply a statement- the statistics showed that there were decreases and this was not speculative but worked on the basis of what had been reported and processed. He did not want to create the impression that there was no crime in SA, but decreases over the years needed to be acknowledged and these figures showed it was not true to say crime was not under control. There was a line of thought that murder could only be solved by the police and this could never be – murder occurred largely between acquaintances, friends and family, where police were not always party to these close knit relationships, which made solving the crime difficult. These crimes were largely social issues which required advocacy and social mobilisation to teach people to manage their differences before turning to violence. Such crime escalated quickly after beginning with a small incident such as a slap to the face. He agreed that the increase in the murder rate for the year under review was a cause for concern but everyone needed to be activated.
Comm Phiyega mentioned that Cabinet asked that trio crimes be prioritised as a subcategory. Residential robberies were included in the aggravated robbery category. In the previous financial year, residential robberies were at 7.4% but had reduced slightly to 5.2% in 2014/15. She would be able to provide further detail if there was further interest on some of the subcategories by Members.
Mr Z Mbhele (DA) found it gratifying to see the ongoing trend of a reduction in sexual offence related crime. He was also pleased with the improvement in conviction rates and the overall decrease in the incidents. He asked what this reduction trend in these crime categories was attributed to, according to the SAPS analysis? He wondered, in particular, if it was related to the re-introduction of the FCS units? If so, could it be said this demonstrated a special efficacy to having a specialised unit approach in tackling crime categories that required a focused, investigative component? The National Commissioner indicated a trend of increase gang-related activity in Masimphumelele, in the Western Cape, for example. Last week, on its oversight visit to the Free State, the Committee saw flare-ups in that province related to gang activity. However, over the past couple of years there had seemingly been a resistance in SAPS and the Ministry to the idea of anti-gang units. Given indications of the FCS environment about the efficacy of a specialised unit approach, he wondered why the same approach could not be used for the anti-gang and anti-drug environment. He asked why SAPS was seemingly not willing to try all avenues, as opposed to the current approach which seemed focused on task teams, whose institutional memory or experience was lost if they were disbanded.
Minister Nhleko indicated there were a number of issues at play, including the FCS unit, which had done an excellent job in dealing with these cases. There was also a social consciousness issue. The myriad of organisations working in the space of sexual offences also played a part by increasing the awareness in communities and thus reducing the crime. Successful prosecution and conviction was another positive element contributing to the reduction. The lesson to learn was that sexual violence was not the type of crime that SAPS could detect for itself, but it reacted when it was reported.
Comm Phiyega said the SAPS Act allowed for the establishment of units. There was not just the FCS, but also the stock theft unit, which was showing some successes. The Hawks was a dedicated special crimes unit which had successes as well. There was no hesitation to pronounce a unit in the case of complex crimes. SAPS was learning a lot from the Western Cape and were even assisted with writing a dictionary and language by policing experts to be shared with other areas.
Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) noted that during the Committee’s oversight visit to the Free State last week, her discussions with the detectives and others eventually revealed that 7 000 dockets were simply closed and archived during the previous month. This came about because the detectives had over 400 dockets on their desks, but instead of bringing in more detectives, the decision was taken that national and provincial crews would be sent in to close the dockets. All of the victims believed the police were searching day and night for their assailants – why then was this decision taken? She also wanted to know how long this approach had been used, and whether it was also being done in other provinces? She asked who had been behind the idea, and if the dockets being closed were now removed from the crime statistics?
Ms Kohler-Barnard commented that of the 27 top crimes reflected currently on the SAPS website, 16 increased and 11 decreased, but most worrying were the murder statistics which were up for the third consecutive year. South Africa had basically gone back to where it was 15 years ago, however, this after spending but billions of rands. The Gauteng State Mortuary last year revealed that its own body count of murder victims was 1 000 higher than the figure released by SAPS. Added to that, apparently babies who were born, dumped as unwanted and subsequently died were not counted as murder victims or given an actual file for a murder to be investigated, for someone to be held accountable for killing the baby. She found herself questioning the murder figures, as horrific as they were. She expected the number of murders of a country at war. It was wonderful to note that the sexual offences were down by 5.4% but she feared it may reflect the increased distrust in SAPS by citizens. NGOs were saying the figure of one in ten reported crimes was a conservative figure while others thought it was as high as one in 20 women who were raped who were actually reporting the case to the police. If so, it might mean the number of rapes per year was actually much higher than currently reflected in the statistics. She asked what research was being done on these matters? She further asked when would results be seen, because someone needed to answer to them.
Minister Nhleko agreed the upward trend of the murder rate was concerning but police dealt with the issue of murder post facto, in a sense, and the greatest amount of work needed to be done at a community level to deal with the violent behaviour.
Comm Phiyega indicated that the 7 000 dockets were part and parcel of the statistics. The only dockets excluded from the statistics were unfounded dockets and there was a protocol and specific way of dealing with them. Standing Order 325 of the Detective Services spoke to how these dockets were dealt with and it was not only in the Free State that this was done. If someone was holding 400 dockets, an age analysis would be done, along with study into the nature of the crime and other factors. This was also included in internal performance management. If new evidence came to light, those dockets would be brought forward and investigated. Communication with victims was important, in order to provide feedback.
Mr M Mncwango (IFP) noted that violent protests spilled over into other categories of crime and influenced other categories. He asked if there was any specific departmental strategy or approach to deal with these service delivery protests. He wondered, for instance, if there was a forum for departments and municipalities to get together and deal with the source of the protests? He was concerned about the proliferation of firearms and said that unless the proliferation was dealt with, SA was less likely to see a substantial decrease in the commission of crimes using weapons. He was particularly concerned about the lack of control of temporary firearm licences issued to foreigners. He asked why they would need to be temporarily issued with firearms? This also applied to the apparent lack of control of firearms in the hands of foreign security companies.
Minister Nhleko said violent protests also spoke to the violent psyche of society which needed to be expunged. Multi-disciplinary approaches were used as a source of intervention, where SAPS could work with other departments and/or municipalities and/or external organisations to try and find solutions.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) questioned whether talking to figures was actually helpful. The statistics highlighted what Members already knew. On the recent oversight visit with the Committee, he saw a huge graveyard which made it seem as if there was a war. There were literally thousands of dead bodies, and the people buried there were part of an unchanged system where the biggest crime was dispossession of land. In the SA Constitution there was a right to life. In KZN, there had been total extermination of people in a particular hostel. He sometimes questioned who was actually protected by the Constitution – was it those who spent their lives fighting against for liberation, or those who had become funnels of the system, such that even the repressive arms of state would be used against them.
Minister Nhleko responded that the statistics and the facts were repeated to galvanise society towards a particular moral direction, and so it did help to talk to what was known and identify the negative elements in society, with the view to finding a solution. He was of the opinion that it would be incorrect to not talk to what was already known; this would be socially irresponsible, and continuous engagement should be encouraged. All parties involved would have to find means of stemming the tide against killings in all areas.
Mr Maake reminded the delegation that he still had not received a response to his question of Limpopo and repeated that he wanted to know what informed the crime trends in the province.
Comm Phiyega outlined that Limpopo was a rural province, where SAPS needed to “up its game” in terms of innovative policing. Such provinces were challenges for policing. There was a serious contributing factor of the influx in this province – this impact was also seen on education and hospitals. There was also an increase in public protests. There were certain crimes of concern, like sexual offences. SAPS was looking into re-capacitating certain areas, along with reorganisation. She was hoping for better and improved performance in this area. Historically, there was baseline information to look into concerning the statistics and in this province, early on,, there had been mis-recording of crime, so baselines needed to be reviewed for the integrity of data collection.
Mr Shaik Emam understood that there was simply a lack of consequences. One example was Hanover Park in the Western Cape – there was a police station in the area but drug trafficking still thrived in the area. What action would be taken to ensure that those responsible in the station performed their duties and performed them well - otherwise consequences had to follow. It was very important to attract the correct quality of people, right from school level.
Comm Phiyega replied that it was also important for the communities to play a role and inform SAPS, to assist policing in this way. The working-together exercise needed to be looked into.
Ms Molebatsi asked if it helped performance figures, if a docket was opened and then closed three minutes later.
Comm Phiyega responded that this was a very complex and intricate issue. This could arise, for instance, if a person had parked incorrectly, reported a car as stolen and then found the car, but usually there would be a concern if someone opened a docket, only for it to be closely shortly thereafter, unless there was an error or there was an unfounded case. There were dynamics to such considerations which might require more study before an answer was given.
Ms Mmola asked if StatsSA would release the crime statistics quarterly.
Mr Groenewald wanted to know if the detailed statistics and raw figures would be published as was done in the past. The complaints by communities of a lack of policing and the rise of vigilante killings and necklacing, indicated that crime was out of control. The statistics were old – they were from last year. He asked if it was possible for the Committee to get quarterly crime statistics to deal with and ascertain what needed to be done immediately.
Minister Nhleko said a Cabinet position on the statistics was taken some time back. There was discussion on reviewing this decision and how it would impact on issues of planning and alignment. There was also a view that it was difficult to follow some of the trends in crime and conceptualise them. This raised questions of balance. He noted that some criminal trends took longer than three months to trace, and it was also necessary to consider impacts on planning and interventions, but this was part of ongoing discussion and debate. Comm Phiyega indicated that the raw data was online on the SAPS website, along with the printed statistics report which would be delivered with the SAPS Annual Report to the Committee.
Mr Mbhele heard the assertion that in many ways crime was a reflection of the SA society, especially with many of the violent categories of crime. The country had seen a decrease in sexual offences – and he wanted to know to what this was attributed. If crime was a reflection of society, and it was known that the SA society had clear roots of patriarchy and violence, then he questioned why there had been this downward trend in the FCS environment? There must be some policing action in spite of the context.
Minister Nhleko said the decrease was attributable to a number of contributing factors like internal efficiency of the FCS unit, successful prosecution and conviction of cases involving sexual violence and abuse of women and children, advocacy in stopping gender based violence - which was high on the SA social and political agenda and other issues. Over the years, SA also experienced an increase in the number of people reporting cases of sexual or domestic abuse or gender based violence, which meant there was a high level of consciousness as a result of government intervention, with advocacy groups and NGOs. This could be ascribed to a combination of attributable factors.
Ms Kohler-Barnard did not think StatsSA actually audited the statistics to determine their validity. For example there were cases where an attack and beating of a civilian was recorded only as theft of a cellphone so dockets needed to be audited to ensure they were a true reflection of the crime situation. She also questioned the decision not to release the murder rate in a format such as so many per 100 000 of the population – that was the international comparison, and asked why was this decision taken? Was there any consideration as to how the statistics related to resourcing at stations? She was at a station in Ekurhuleni on the previous night, where 121 of the operational members had failed their competency certificate. There was massive under resourcing which should be addressed in relation to the crime statistics per station, but it was just not happening.
Mr Mncwango noted that police officers were arrested for various types of crime in 2014/15. He was interested to know how many of these officers were successfully prosecuted - arrest was one thing and successful prosecution was another.
Comm Phiyega said a progress report on this matter could be provided to the Committee.
Mr Mhlongo noted that when people were poor or without food, they would do anything. He asked if it was possible for future statistics to come up with a mechanism to say what the most prevalent crimes were and then to know the economic conditions of those particular communities, because poverty was killing people on a big scale. This was serious.
Minister Nhleko thought this was an established fact and there was a strong causal link between the extent of poverty and unsound socio-economic conditions and the prevalence of crime. This was also historical in SA. This also applied to issues of drug and alcohol abuse. This problem was largely seen in working class areas and poor communities. Social circumstances themselves produced or reduced levels and patterns of crime and violence in society. It was the circumstances which effectively needed to be dealt with.
The Minister thanked Members for taking the time out for the meeting, during recess, in order to receive the report. Members of Parliament were custodians and representatives of the public so it was important for work to be filtered at this level before any other engagement.
The Chairperson welcomed this appropriate response ,which set a good example for other Cabinet Members.
Summarising the views of the Committee to today's presentations, he noted that Members welcomed the work of StatsSA in evaluating the validity and representivity of the SAPS Annual Statistics. However, they had strongly expressed the view that the increase in contact crime was of particular concern and more should be done by SAPS, in collaboration with community structures, for strategies to bring contact crime down. Members had welcomed the reduction in crimes against women and children was welcomed. The trends in increasing gang violence were concerning and needed to be addressed by all stakeholders, especially in schooling communities and youth formations. The level of gun violence was too high and all resources should be used to bring it down – this issue should be visited at the national level and with a discourse on gun ownership. Violence in society was too high and respect for the rule of law should be cultivated at all levels especially at school level as it was not only the responsibility of the police. Finally, the task team announced in a previous engagement with the Minister could play a vital role in leadership challenges in the police, and could be a proactive resource going forward
The Committee thanked the thousands and thousands of honest police persons who everyday did their utmost to uphold the law. Even on the Committee’s recent oversight visit to the Free State, hard working members were seen at all levels and this hard work was applauded.
The meeting was adjourned.
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