Police Killings Summit: briefing by Minister on statements made by The National Commissioner; Progress with Resolution 7/2002: b

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04 June 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


4 June 2003

Mr M George (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Implementation of Resolution 7/2002: Status Report

The Minister's briefing took place in response to a letter from the Democratic Alliance (DA). This had expressed concern about the National Commissioner's comments on confusion in the South African Police Services (SAPS) about a police officer's the right to self-defence. The Minister confirmed that the law made provision for the use of a firearm in self-defence or to defend others whose lives might be threatened. The Commissioner's comments had sought to convey the same message.

A briefing by the SAPS on Resolution 7/2002 highlighted the considerable progress made in transforming the SAPS. Discussion focused on relocations and re-deployments, which had presented difficulties but which were nevertheless being managed in close consultation with the unions concerned.

Minister's briefing on the National Commissioner's speech
The Chair noted the considerable media comment generated by the National Commissioner's speech at the Summit on Police Killings. He was alleged to have said that police confusion about rights to self-defence led to them being killed. Mr D Gibson (DA) had written a letter requesting that the Minister be called to confirm that this had been said. This issue related to questions around Section 49(1).

Mr Gibson thanked the Chair and Minister for their prompt response to his letter. The matter concerned all members of the Committee since the level of police killings was generally unacceptable. Police officers needed to know that everything possible was being done to reduce killings and that their dependants would be looked after properly. He expressed concern that the Commissioner had confirmed that the police were confused about the legal situation surrounding self- and other defence. He attributed this to a disinformation campaign by a party he did not wish to name. Police officers had been told that, if they defended themselves, they risked being tried for murder. It was unsatisfactory that police were not clear on this. His office had conducted a short exercise in which ten police stations had been telephoned and asked for their understanding of Section 49. Of these, only two or three had given an adequate understanding of the Section. At least seven had been unclear about it. A force order should be issued to clarify the matter. Further, the whole legal situation needed attention. The situation was not what Parliament intended and the Section should be amended to provide clarity.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) responded that Mr Gibson's statement confirmed that there was no problem with the Commissioner's statement. No explanation was needed.

The Chair stated that Mr Maziya's comment was unhelpful. Mr Gibson had stated that the Commissioner's speech confirmed that the police were confused about the issue. The Minister should be allowed to speak.

The Minister stated that Section 49 was a topic on its own. He had spoken at the summit and had heard and understood the National Commissioner's speech. He had even checked with the Commissioner that he had understood it correctly. The Commissioner's theme was self-defence. He had said that there ought not be any confusion on this because the matter is clear. Nothing in the law disallows warning shots, self- or other defence. When the Commissioner had spoken off-the-cuff, he had been emphasising what he had said in his speech. Shortly after the Summit, the Minister had taken part in a radio phone-in programme in which people had clearly been unsettled about what the law said on this matter. In all his interactions with service members, the Minister had explained the provisions of the law, which allow a police officer to use a firearm to defend his/her own life or that of others. A circular had been sent along with salary advice slips to confirm this. During the phone-in people had appeared confused and the National Commissioner had said that they should not be.

The Minister cited the example of a siege where it was clear that police lives were at risk and firearms ought to have been used. Instead the police officers had only used stun grenades. In dangerous situations, a police official needed to determine whether lives were at risk. The Commissioner was simply saying that there should be no confusion around this.

The Chair said that to say that the police are confused is to provide a mitigating explanation for criminals. The view expressed at the conference was that there was no excuse for police killings. Speakers had said that killing police officials is an attack on the State.

Mr E Ferreira (IFP) observed that the Minister kept using the phrase 'in defence'. Did this indicate that one should only use one's firearm when attacked? What if criminals had firearms but were not using them? Should lives then be judged to be in imminent danger?

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) stated that the police are confused because they are not sure what to do under various circumstances. He noted that sixty per cent of police officials had never defended themselves. Saying that the police should not be confused did not solve anything. He had spoken to police officers and they were confused. The task was to identify what caused the confusion and deal with it.

Adv P Swart (DA) agreed with Rev Meshoe. The confusion was worsened by the legal situation. Having Section 49, the Constitutional Court ruling and the amended, but unpromulgated, Section 49 caused confusion. He was sure that even members of the Committee were confused. This confusion could not be addressed without addressing the legal problem. The legal department should draft a clear instruction on this for all police officials and politicians.

Mr M Booi (ANC) stated that he was struggling with the nature of the debate. The topic was the National Commissioner's statement. If the discussion went beyond this, it left many members unprepared. Adv Swart's point was a good one and should be taken up.

Mr J Ngubeni (ANC) stated that the Commissioner's address had focused on the right to self-defence. There should be no confusion. Members were themselves confused and had been confusing the police for political purposes. He did not think it necessary to take the matter further. The issue of Section 49 should not be discussed since it was far different from the topic on the agenda.

Mr Gibson stated that he could not understand why the Committee was discussing whether or not there is confusion. In his speech, the Commissioner had asked why sixty per cent of police officials did not defend themselves. The Commissioner had said that the police are confused. The Committee should consider what could be done about this. He asked if police killings are regarded as the highest priority. If not, they should be. The capture of police killers should be publicised, both to comfort police service members and to re-assure the public. Members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) should receive a message from the National Commissioner every time a police killer is convicted. He asked if the police had enough bullet-proof vests. He had been to a station in the Eastern Cape where they had only seventeen vests for over seventy officers. A force order should be framed to clear up the confusion. He asked if the Minister intended to amend Section 49.

The Chair noted that Section 49 falls under Justice, not Safety and Security. If the Committee was to discuss Section 49, it should do so properly. It would be no problem to have a meeting on this at which the Minister of Justice would asked to be present. Going into the matter improperly would just deepen the confusion.

The Minister stated that if one looked at roles, he should be making the remarks that members had made. The members were legislators and so should be making the law. The National Commissioner had appeared before the Committee and asked for assistance on the sort of scenario Mr Ferreira had outlined. The hope was that the Committee would understand the need to review the legislation. The Department had submitted what it thought was an adequate amendment. He had been asked to explain the Commissioner's remarks. The Commissioner had said that there had been confusion but that there ought not to have been. On self-defence there had never been any ambiguity. This was all he had been asked to explain.

The Chair agreed that there should be no confusion. He expressed concern that police unions had contributed to this. He had recently attended a funeral where both the religious official and a speaker from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) had said that police had to be shot at before they could shoot back. He had corrected this view. Police killings should be a high priority. For example, if a police officer was killed in Mitchell's Plain then all Western Cape police officers should get together to conduct a raid on Mitchell's Plain. The community should understand the consequences of police killings and the media should take police killings more seriously. Finally, Section 49 should be revisited.

Mr P Groenewald (FF) replied that it did not solve the problem to say that one might defend oneself since the law requires that one should use no more force than necessary. It was not clear how far one might legally go in self-defence.

The Chair responded that he had allowed Mr Groenewald to make this statement as a courtesy since this was the first meeting he had attended. He asked that the Minister respond so that Mr Groenewald's statement was not what the media focussed on.

The Minister said that the media would probably accuse legislators of putting together a law that they wanted applied differently from the way it was written. As far as the police were concerned, the view was that one should use whatever instrument one had if one believed one's life to be threatened. Legislators should correct any legal problems.

The Chair stated that the Committee needed to meet with the Department of Justice on this. It was time the matter was resolved.

Progress on Resolution 7/2002: Briefing (PowerPoint presentation)
Deputy National Commissioner Singh stated that the implementation of Resolution 7 was in line with the SAPS vision statement, to create a safe and secure environment. This was understood in terms of the Constitutional requirements of the police service to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, protect the public and uphold and enforce the law. The strategy to combat crime included improving basic services and service delivery, and addressing representivity. Principles of implementation included strengthening capability, fostering partnerships with the community, deepening transformation, improving accountability, ensuring an holistic approach, strengthening human resources and deploying most of them to station level, shifting capacity to provincial and unit level, moving functionally qualified office-bound members out of their office roles, and skills acquisition. Gains from the implementation of this strategy had included decentralisation, strengthening capacity, addressing critical shortages and representivity, the cross-pollination of skills, and addressing inefficiency and incompetence at management level. This had improved service delivery.

Commissioner Singh then took the Committee through the PowerPoint presentation. Resolution 7 had been implemented on 13 June 2002 and Cabinet has decided that the programme should be finalised by the end of June 2003. Committees had been established to oversee and monitor the process. National, provincial, divisional, area and component matching and placement committees saw to it that human resources were placed where they best met service delivery requirements. There had been extensive consultation with organised labour and other stakeholders.

An important component of the implementation was the skills inventory. All members of the police service had had to provide an inventory of their skills, which provided the basis for placement.

Senior Management Service (SMS) personnel had been successfully placed. Of the 538 employees at SMS level (director and higher), 451 had been retained in their current posts, 80 had been re-deployed (which entailed a new job description, not necessarily relocation), two were declared in excess and five had taken severance packages. At the lower levels, 201 employees were not placed. This was reduced to 51 after national intervention. Initiatives were in place to absorb these employees. There had been a high number of re-deployments and relocations in Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. The relocations in the Eastern Cape had been especially high since the head office had been moved to Bisho. National teams were sent in to assist in dealing with the representations that had flowed from this. Since the figures had been compiled for the presentation, about 100 more disputes had been resolved in Gauteng. With 124850 members (as at the November 2002 establishment), there had been 3922 representations which had led to 1402 disputes of which 550 (650 if one included the 100 recently resolved in Gauteng) had been resolved and 852 (752) remained unresolved.

SAPS had acknowledged a weakness in communication at the last briefing. Directives had been issued for clarity and there had been articles, presentations and workshops on the implementation of Resolution 7. Generic guidelines had been issued to the provinces to assist them with the problems identified.

Treasury has been asked to fund relocations. They had indicated that they would do so if the SAPS could guarantee that this would be a once-off expenditure. Transfers to critical posts had already started and all critical SMS posts had been dealt with.

Adv P Swart (DA) praised the good work done and the way the SAPS had been dealing with the issues raised. They had clearly learnt a lot about internal public relations. He had also been impressed at the honesty with which problems had been identified. He noted that there had been only 50 relocations in Gauteng. Was this number low because Gauteng is geographically small?

Director Odendaal (Legal Services, SAPS) replied that there were 3600 redeployments in Gauteng and only 50 relocations. This was because Gauteng is basically a metro in which, for example, someone might be moved from the Soweto to the Sandton office. A re-deployment counted as a relocation if the employee was expected to move household. There was no distance cut-off for this in Resolution 7. If the employee opted to relocate, he/she would be reimbursed up to R25 thousand. Employees could opt to commute instead of relocating, even where this meant a 70 kilometre commute.

The Chair asked if employees might use state vehicles to commute such distances. This would be 140 kilometres a day.

Director Odendaal replied that authorisation was necessary for employees to use state vehicles to commute. It would not make business sense to authorise the use of state vehicles for such a commute and managers would have to take these business implications into account.

Mr Ferreira asked the officials to elaborate on consultations with organised labour. Whilst he realised that one could not always reach agreement, he wanted to know whether organised labour was co-operating or resisting.

Divisional Commissioner Nchwe (Career Management, SAPS) replied that Resolution 7 had been negotiated in the public service. It had been signed by a majority of unions in the bargaining council. Sixty-two per cent had agreed, which made it legally binding. The Department was pleased that the unions in the sector had signed the resolution, which acknowledged that implementation would be driven by employers in consultation with trades unions. Consultation required a serious attempt to arrive at consensus. This has been done, although at times there had been serious differences. When these had occurred, the parties had sat down and attempted to address the issues and find a common approach. The SAPS had tried to secure labour's co-operation as far as possible. Where there were differences they had discussed these with the unions. A number of workshops had been held at national and provincial levels, all of which had involved the Department and the unions.

Adv Swart asked how many of the relocations in the Eastern Cape were due to the relocation of the provincial head office. Such relocations were not really due to Resolution 7. He asked for countrywide relocation numbers and the cost of relocations.

Mr Ferreira stated that he was not as concerned about re-deployment as about relocations. If 838 personnel were to be relocated in the Eastern Cape, this meant the countrywide figure must be over 1000. This was a lot of people and could cause problems for families.

Rev Meshoe asked if there were any standard factors that were considered before relocation. Was the time of year taken into account where this would affect schooling?

Director Odendaal replied that that the 838 relocations in the Eastern Cape represented 33% of the national figure of 2329. Special initiatives were in place to deal with the high numbers in the Eastern Cape. In terms of Resolution 8, all current relocations would be collapsed under Resolution 7. Of the 838, 189 employees were moving because of the relocation of the provincial head office. The rest were relocating due to the phasing out of the specialist units. This was a phased process that had started three years ago. The specialist units in the Eastern Cape were to be closed and members re-deployed to new units. Equity would also be addressed during this process since the old specialist units were predominantly white and slow to transform. Redeployment would cost R58,2 million and Treasury was being asked to reimburse the Department for this.

Divisional Commissioner Stander (Personnel Services) added that the basis for redeployment was the skills inventory, with personal circumstances and representivity taken into account. The most important factor was the requirements of the police service. Separation of spouses had largely been resolved. The relocation timeframe had been set in terms of Resolution 7. The service was bound by this and it could only extend it as late as September.

Commissioner Singh added that personal circumstances were always considered, although these needed to be balanced with the needs of the service. Delays were not possible with critical posts.

Mr Ferreira asked what expenses would be covered for relocation.

Director Odendaal replied that relocation costs would be reimbursed up to R25 thousand. This was to cover transport, travel and subsistence, interim accommodation, property transfer fees and R1200 for each school-going child. Incidental expenses were covered up to the lesser of the employee's basic salary or R5 thousand. The SAPS has no discretion in this and could not reimburse an amount above R25 thousand.

Mr Maziya noted that the exercise had started months ago. All interactions on it had indicated that there were problems. Resolution 7 was not only aimed at the police service but was a Government effort to fast-track transformation. It was clear that transformation was moving slowly and he wondered if it would be achieved. He observed that Commissioner Singh had made it clear that there were consultations with unions. However, the union movement was keen to increase membership whatever the consequences. Their role was not to be obstructive but to help management find solutions. A way should be found to provide leadership and it was clear that unions are not providing this but rather obstructing the process.

Commissioner Singh replied that the exercise had not been undertaken to get rid of members in order to achieve representivity. They had identified areas that were predominantly white and slow to transform, such as the old specialist units. Representivity had been addressed in these areas and had improved.

The Chair asked that members keep their questions and comments short.

Mr Booi stated that he agreed with Adv Swart that the police are doing good work. He understood resistance because of having to move, having encountered such problems with other Members of Parliament (MPs) having to move to Cape Town. Was resistance politically motivated or just based on normal facts of life?

Commissioner Singh replied that she had often had the sense that resistance was political but could not substantiate this.

Ms A van Wyk (ANC) stated that Resolution 7 was not a Safety and Security issue alone. It had been negotiated at national level with organised labour. She found the high profile given to it by some newspapers strange. She had grown up in a family where her father, a state official, had been relocated to three different provinces in eighteen months. Relocations were not new. She wondered what the motive was behind the questioning. When the strategy was introduced, it was clear there would be movement of personnel. Change management is very difficult. The SAPS should be congratulated on the way they had handled it. She asked for the national physical relocation figures and whether the 51 excess staff were all non-constables. She was of the view that, when the process was complete and the desired delivery materialised, the problems being raised now would seem small. The SAPS had probably handled the process as well as it could.

Commissioner Singh replied that the 51 excess staff were not police officers but public service personnel.

Director Odendaal replied that 2329 employees were to be relocated nationally.

Mr Ngubeni stated that the process fitted the SAPS strategy. Improving services was critical. The Committee tended to sugar-coat what they said. For example, some members believed that people should be deployed according to language and that Zulus should served Zulus and so on. This was racism, yet it appeared in the DA document.

Adv Swart rose on a point of order. He stated that Mr Ngubeni was calling him a racist and asked the Chair ask Mr Ngubeni to withdraw the term.

The Chair did so.

Mr Ngubeni then withdrew the term, stating that his grasp of the language might have caused a problem.

Mr Groenewald rose on a point of order. He asked if members should be making political statements, rather than asking questions. The place for political statements was the House.

The Chair said that he understood that this was an emotive issue. He appealed to the Committee to deal with Resolution 7 and not take jabs at one another. He asked that Mr Ngubeni respect this when he continued.

Mr Ngubeni stated that his example was to illustrate the importance of transformation. He asked if the SAPS took seriously the idea that people of different races should be integrated. Doing so would enhance transformation and normalise race relations. He had been told that the money for Resolution 7 had been taken from the SAPS budget. Was this true?

Director Odendaal replied that a large percentage of the representations regarding re-deployment involved the language and/or culture of the community to which the employee had been re-deployed. Employees felt comfortable in their current posts. The culture of comfort needed to be broken to allow cross-pollination of skills.

Ms J Sosibo (ANC) stated that members should understand the relocation issue round Resolution 7 since the majority of legislators had had to relocate. She asked if there would be any extension beyond the 30 June finalisation date in view of resolved disputes.

Commissioner Nchwe replied that Cabinet had indicated that all departments should attempt to finalise the implementation of Resolution 7 by the end of June. Most departments were at the stage of resolving disputes. All efforts were focused on this, with work continuing even during weekends. All disputes that did not require mediation would be resolved. They were making representations to the Minister to consider an extension if necessary.

Commissioner Singh thanked the Committee for their support.

Ms Van Wyk noted that only 1,86% of staff would be relocated. Clearly the SAPS had made an effort since the figure was very low.

Mr Maziya rose on a point of order. He stated that there had been howling in the back during the SAPS officials' responses.

The Chair responded that he would have to check the rules to see if this was out of order. He could not rule on the matter without knowing the applicable rules.

The Chair stated that the questions had been answered and everyone was happy.

Mr Groenewald commented that, whilst the questions had been answered, this did not mean he was happy.

The Chair stated that he was receiving letters on Resolution 7 and that some people were clearly unhappy.
It was important to resolve problems with labour. Management was dealing with people that were part of the service and whose co-operation was important. At times, unions represented members with unreasonable issues simply to maintain membership. They should look at the facts of the cases. The unions had caused problems with Section 49, using it to agitate. The SAPS could not afford such tensions. Problems with Resolution 7 should be resolved so that the process would have a positive effect.

Public Hearings on the Counter-Terrorism Bill & Programme
The Chair stated that hearings on the Counter-Terrorism Bill would be held in Parliament, not around the country as certain groups had requested. The logistics of moving around would present difficulties. The hearings should start on 17 June since the budget vote fell on 10 June, during the week 9-13 June. The Committee should therefore try to deal with outstanding issues before 17 June. The leader of government business had asked that as many groups as possible be accommodated even where this led to duplicated or similar submissions.

Adv Swart noted that, at the last briefing on the Bill, the Committee had been told that parts of it were being redrafted. When would the Committee get the redrafted document?

The Chair replied that, for the hearings, the Committee should use the certified Bill even though this left out definitions and the tabled Bill contained more information. Doing otherwise could cause problems. He had asked that the redrafted document be made available to all parties.

The meeting was adjourned.


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