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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
6 March 2001
RATIONALISATION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE,CHILD PROTECTION AND SEXUAL OFFENCES UNITS: BRIEFING
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Members sought clarification on statement attributed to Mr Jackie Selebi, Police Commissioner, that he intended to close the Child Protection Unit. If this were the position, what measures, if any, have the SAPS taken to ensure children were not jeopardised. Assistant Commissioner Eksteen assured the Committee that there were no plans to close the CPU. Instead the SAPS is in the process of rationalising all specialised units to bring services closer to the community. In fact, the SAPS were taking measures to build the capacity of all specialised units and not to weaken them.
Assistant Commissioner Eksteen explained that there had always been over specialisation in the SAPS. This had led to a situation where there was a lack of co-ordination and intelligence sharing among the units. The SAPS, he added, has decided to correct this anomaly by rationalising the work of all the specialised units. The functions of relevant units will be taken up in detective units at local level as well as in Organised Crime and Serious Violent Crime Units which will be developed in accordance with the priority crime threats. He clarified, however, that no function of the specialised units would be terminated. The aim of this exercise, he emphasised, was to bring services closer to the communities.
The Chair sought to know whether, plans were afoot to close the Child Protection Unit (CPU) at present or at any other time in the foreseeable future. Mr Tihagale asked whether the planned closure of the CPU entailed the withdrawal of the serving officers from the unit and if so, how and where these officers will be deployed.
In reply, Mr Eksteen stated that there were no plans to close the CPU at least in the next three years. He explained that, the SAPS rationalisation program was still at the initial stage and that he was not in a position to tell what would happen in the next phase. He said that none of the serving officers would be withdrawn from the unit save for normal departmental transfers.
The Chair inquired whether there had so far been any interaction with other child welfare agencies regarding the CPU issue. Ms Ghandhi asked whether information about the proposed closure had been shared with other child welfare stakeholders before the decision on rationalisation was taken.
Mr Eksteen admitted that no such networking had taken place so far. He, however, promised to consult with all interested parties when the CPU issue is put on the table. He explained that no official information about the intended closure of the CPU has been shared with other stakeholders because no decision regarding the closer of the CPU had been taken. The rationalisation process, he continued, did not affect the CPU.
Mr Tihagale criticised the SAPS for causing confusion by the usage of different terminology in their effort to explain the status of the CPU. Assistant Commissioner Eksteen agreed with Mr Tihagale and promised to make the position clear in future.
Mr Mkhaliphi pointed out that the existing SAPS infrastructure fell far short of international standards on child protection. Mr Surty sought to know whether lack of adequate resources contributed to the dismal performance in this vital area. Ms Ghandhi pointed out that the CPU is known to be child friendly and sought to know whether in the event of rationalisation the CPU will be merged with regular police units.
Mr Eksteen agreed with Mr Surty that some police units were well equipped while others were not. He admitted that lack of adequate resources was to blame for this disparity. He promised, however, that in the next financial year the issue would be comprehensively addressed. He said the CPU had in the past performed well and that it will remain a specialised unit. When the decision to rationalise the CPU is taken, he told the committee, the aim would be to bring the unit's services closer to the people in particular rural communities. He said that specialised units have in the past been far removed from the rural communities.
The Chair closed the meeting by urging the SAPS to enhance and not to diminish their service to the children, to strengthen and uphold all international matters on child welfare and consult widely whenever they contemplate any drastic action on matters touching on the welfare of the children.
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