In a virtual meeting, the Ministry of Police and the South African Police Service briefed the Committee on the public comments received regarding the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill. They gave an overview of the state of police services in the Free State ahead of the Committee's oversight visit to the province.
The Civilian Secretariat for Police Services (CSPS) reported that comments had been received from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Action Society, a civil rights organisation. They both supported the Bill's contents, but felt that it was restrictive in focusing on schedule 8 offences. Members asked questions about the applicability of the Bill to groups such as undocumented foreign nationals and people who had been wrongfully arrested. The CSPS affirmed the neutral application of the Bill, as well as its flexibility, stating that it applied equally to everyone arrested in the country, and that people could also be removed from the database, should this be necessary.
The briefing on the state of police services in the Free State covered the management of police services in the area, interventions by the police to combat crime specific to the province, the management of rural stations, and the implementation of the police rural safety strategy. Members asked about reports of corruption, stock theft and other crime syndicates in the province. They raised concern over the bad condition of many police stations in the Free State, and the lack of human resources. The Minister acknowledged and confirmed the existence of these issues, but said measures were in place to tackle these challenges.
The Chairperson said the Committee had received a briefing by the Ministry of Police and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on the Criminal Law Forensic Procedures Amendment Bill before Parliament went on recess. The Bill had been put out for comments. Two written submissions had been received from Action Society and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Both organisations were in support of the Bill. The Chairperson handed over to the Ministry to speak on its responses to the comments.
Response to public comments
General Bheki Cele, Minister of Police, greeted the Members, and requested that officials from the Secretariat take the Committee through the presentation.
Mr Takalani Ramaru, Acting Secretary for Police Service, greeted the Committee and introduced his delegation. He said Dr Phillip Jacobs, Director: Legislation, Civilian Secretariat for Police Services (CSPS), would lead the presentation.
Dr Jacobs said the two presentations were received from COSATU and Action Society.
COSATU supported the speedy passage of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill. It held the view that the Bill was in line with, and gave expression to, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and that it provided a fair balance for rights of all citizens. However, it pointed out that the Act was restrictive in that the taking of DNA samples was limited to persons arrested for schedule 8 offences. COSATU believed that collecting buccal samples must be done when persons were arrested and charged for all criminal offences.
The Department, in regard to COSATU's comments, was of the view that the obligatory taking of DNA samples was restricted to Schedule 8 offences, which covered a huge number of offences. In view of budgetary limitations and relevance, it was proposed that the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, provided adequately in this regard. It should also be taken into account that the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, was not under consideration here, but only the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill.
Action Society was of the view that Section 36D(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act remained inoperable, and it was still not mandatory for the SAPS to take buccal samples in the appropriate circumstances, notwithstanding that this was a legislated procedural requirement. Action Society also criticised the fact that there was an undue delay in introducing the Bill. The Department had noted these concerns, and was of the view that it was clear that Action Society supported the contents of the Bill and the speedy implementation thereof.
He concluded the presentation.
Minister Cele handed over to the Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Cassel Mathale.
The Deputy Minister said that he believed Dr Jacobs' submission sufficed, as it addressed the specific areas that COSATU and Action Society had made, supporting this process. The other submission that had been prepared was merely detailing what they have been doing since the legislation was drafted, and what made it difficult for them to perform certain functions that necessitated the amendment of this legislation.
The Chairperson said she did not believe it was necessary for the other presentation to be made, given what the Deputy Minister had stated. She thanked him for that additional information. She felt that the presentation addressed some of the questions the Committee raised in their previous meeting.
Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) started by welcoming the presentation and the submissions. He affirmed the importance of this work, and agreed with the Deputy Minister that the work must be expedited so that the Bill was passed and sent on to the President to be signed. He asked whether this Bill also affected foreign nationals the same way as it affected South Africans. There was a problem regarding undocumented foreign nationals in the country, and the Committee needed to find a way to tighten the criminal justice system and the Criminal Procedures Act for the Committee to do its work diligently. He was of the view that they needed to be firm in what they did. People argued that they had specific rights, but the fact of the matter remained that a person became a suspect once they were arrested, so one had to find a way, in terms of section 38(6) of the Constitution, to restrict the rights of certain people who were suspects. According to him, this was the best way to deal with the problems that they were facing.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) raised concern over the number of people who were imprisoned for the wrong cause. He asked whether a plan was in place for those who found themselves wrongfully imprisoned. Men in this country could find themselves in court for many reasons. How was that going to be handled? It was not easy for people to have their names cleared after they had been vindicated, especially in the political field.
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) raised concern over the fact that there were Chinese people who were conducting slavery in South African factories, where one could see Malawians and Zimbabweans being treated unfairly. He lost internet connection, and could not complete his questions.
On whether the Bill applied to foreign nationals in South Africa, Dr Jacobs replied that the Bill applied equally to any person being arrested in South Africa. It also focused on persons who had been convicted and were serving a sentence. The Bill allowed the police to take such persons' DNA before their sentence had been finalised. Whenever they reoffended, their DNA would allow the police to trace them, whether they were South Africans or of foreign nationality.
Regarding people who had been wrongfully arrested, he highlighted the fact that the use of DNA was not only to obtain a conviction, but to facilitate the investigation of a case. A section in the legislation allowed people who were not linked to the crime to be removed from the process.
On the removal of the DNA from the database, there was a provision in the legislation that put an obligation on the head of forensics to ensure that the DNA had been removed from the database once a person had been acquitted and found not guilty. The same was applicable to fingerprints.
On the allegations of slavery being conducted by Chinese people in certain factories, he replied that schedule 8 of the legislation also included slavery. These offences were mostly offences where DNA could assist in solving the crime. The Act was wide, but one must remember that the amendments focused on taking the DNA of the person serving their sentence so that they could be arrested and brought before a court should they be released and reoffend.
Minister Cele added to Dr Jacob's second point, stating that the DNA process was a weapon that would help a lot to assist in matters such as murders and gender-based violence (GBV), and that there were practical cases in today's current affairs where the DNA process could be very effective.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and Dr Jacobs for their responses. She reminded the Committee that they were dealing with procedural matters relating to the Bill. They understood that the Bill was important and had tried their best to expedite the process. The Committee aimed to get a briefing as soon as it could before going to recess so they could use the recess period for advertising and allowing for public comments.
The next meeting would be dealing with the report of the Committee. She closed this agenda item, and moved on to the next item.
State of police services in Free State
The Chairperson provided context to the second agenda item by stating that the Committee was busy preparing for the Committee's community oversight week in the Free State. She thought that it would be prudent if the Committee could receive a briefing from the province, seeing that time was limited and it was a joint oversight visit with the Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Human Settlements, and Water and Sanitation. In line with the Committee's annual plans, it had identified aspects related to SAPS and military veterans that would be focused on in the Free State. Therefore, the Committee had requested the Minster, Deputy Minister, and the Free State Provincial Commissioner, to brief the Committee on the state of police services in the Free State province.
The Committee had also requested that the presentation cover the management of police services in the area, interventions by the police to combat crime specific to the province, the management of rural stations and the implementation of the police rural safety strategy. When the Committee did oversight, it would be focusing on the Park Road police station in Bloemfontein.
She handed over to the Minister, who then clarified that the Provincial Police Commissioner of the Free State had suffered a bereavement and could not be present in the meeting, so the Deputy Provincial Police Commissioner of the Free State would lead the presentation.
The Chairperson conveyed the Committee's condolences to the Provincial Commissioner, and the platform was handed over to General Fanie Masemola, National Commissioner of Police.
Gen Masemola said the presentation would be led by Maj Gen LM Singh, Deputy Provincial Police Commissioner of the Free State. The presentation would be about the state of policing in the Free State as requested, specifically Park Road Police Station.
Maj Gen Singh's presentation looked at the provincial profile of the Free State -- including Park Road Police Station -- and also gave an overview of crime, rural safety, community involvement in the province, and a general overview of the province's challenges and achievements.
What was noteworthy to mention concerning crime in the Free State was the five-year comparison. Between January to March 2018, and the same period in 2022, there had been a 17.5% increase in total contact crimes, a 20.4% increase in contact-related crimes, a 21% increase in total sexual offences, a decrease of 13.7% in robberies in residential places and 1.6% in non-residential premises, and an 8% decrease in contact sexual offences. More work was needed to decrease crimes related to drinking under the influence.
Noteworthy overarching interventions to combat crime included the adoption and implementation of an integrated crime and violence prevention strategy, "Operation Phethisa Molao," to be launched on 10 August, and interventions to address GBV and femicide, such as the establishment of an integrated task team with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that was continuously engaging, conducting awareness, and screening case dockets. There was also the establishment of a high level GBVF committee, chaired by the Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Policing, with all provincial heads being appointed as members of this committee.
Regarding community involvement, he said that all community policing forums in the Free State were fully functional in terms of the approved processes and procedures, as per the technical indicator description.
Infrastructure challenges facing the police in the Free State included the rolling blackouts/load shedding. This affected the operational requirements of the province. The entire Phuthaditjhaba area constantly had power outages that impacted the community and the police.
Infrastructure challenges at the Park Road, Welkom and Odendaalsrus police station involved issues of contractors being on site, yet work not being done. The SAPS head office was liaising with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to address this.
Other operational priorities included the acquisition of buccal samples for the effective investigation of cases. An additional ring-fenced budget of R3.1 million had been allocated.
He concluded the presentation.
Mr Mthethwa asked whether they would receive this presentation when the Committee went for oversight. He would not need answers from this session specifically but would just like to add to the list of what he hoped the Committee would find when they did oversight at the Park Road police station. For instance, he was interested in seeing whether the cars in the fleets were fit for purpose, and was also interested in seeing a breakdown of how many of the cars allocated for police operations were in use. If cars were not in use, an explanation was needed as to why they were not in use, for how long they would not be in use, and what the overall fleet management challenges were.
Secondly, he wanted to know what the infrastructure problems were. What did the detention cells look like? The Committee had seen horrible cells. How many of the stations had victim-friendly rooms (VFRs)? He had found that GBV information was lacking in the presentation. For stakeholder and community engagement, he felt that there needed to be representatives from the stakeholders in the police stations. Were the police forums in place actually functional, or were they just to tick boxes? Lastly, in terms of human resources, he wanted to see more employee visibility. What challenges was the Human Resources department (HR) facing? Was there enough staff to cover station duties, and were there enough police officers in proportion to the area?
Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) brought to the Committee's attention that there had been an exposé about Maj Gen Jan Tsotetsi of the Free State, who was accused of being a bully. One would want to know whether the Department was aware of these allegations. If so, what had they done to find out whether the allegations were true or not to restore the credibility of the SAPS? A lot of members in the Free State were being accused of being involved in stock theft. What was the Department doing to combat this issue? Could the Commissioners and the Ministers rule out a stock theft syndicate in the murder of Brendin Honer?
He appreciated the update about the Park Road police station, and that it had been mentioned that the problem had been occurring for years. In that regard, what discussion had the Department had with the DPWI about this? Why could the Department not take the matter forward to Parliament for the building to be finished? People needed that building.
He appreciated the presentation about generators. Apparently, police officers used their petrol allocations for electricity so that they could put fuel into the generators instead of putting fuel into their vehicles so that they could chase after criminals. Would this not prevent police officers from doing their work? How did the Department plan to minimise this? Regarding holding cells, what was the Department doing to ensure that the police did not have to travel extreme distances because certain holding cells were not in good condition? Lastly, a lot of vandalism was happening in the Free State -- were officers at the station level aware of their roles?
Ms C Visser (DA, North West) requested information on the provincial DNA and firearm licences backlog. She also requested clarity and feedback on cross border crime with Lesotho. What measures were in place to work with civil society for rural safety? What was the extent of the specialised and rural safety units in place in the Free State? Were stations closed due to problems with the DPWI? What was being done to reopen these stations? How far was the investigation into the police officer from Bloemfontein who had driven into a pedestrian during the lockdown? She had found that the affidavit and other forms were unavailable on a visit she had conducted to the Bayswater police station. The station had not had a photocopier for a very long time. Why was such a busy police station administratively incapacitated and severely short staffed? This was a disgrace. Why did vehicles stand at Bayswater without being allocated, and what was the situation there now? What was the situation at storage for clothes, stationery and other necessary items? Did officers have to buy such things from their own pockets under certain circumstances? There were allegations of a syndicate between undocumented foreign nationals and the Welkom police. Had there been an investigation into this? If not, why not?
Mr Dodovu liked that the presentation had done an environmental scan, given a total picture of the situation, and precisely explained what the police in the Free State was dealing with. He requested the Minister or Commissioner to counter his point that the presentation had not dealt with the key issues with which the police in the Free State were dealing. These were issues around resources. He requested that they spell out exactly what the Ministry was doing to address the problem of resources and funding. He was of the view that the funding was little in comparison to the magnitude of the work that the police was required to carry out. People accused the police of lacking the technical expertise to deal with complex criminal matters. What could the Free State do to counter those accusations?
Secondly, he added to Ms Visser's statements about undocumented foreign nationals. He had visited Welkom in 2020, and had been told shocking stories about how rampant undocumented foreign nationals were in the Welkom community, to the extent that they destroyed the economic infrastructure, particularly water and electricity. The Minister had made an appearance in Welkom to deal with the issue of undocumented foreign nationals, and part of what he had aimed to do was to establish a special task force in the Free State to deal with the issues. This was a very serious matter, and he was of the view that it was out of control. What successes originated in the Free State that could be proliferated in other areas that were facing the same issues? Undocumented foreign nationals were also rampant in his constituency. What plans were being implemented to combat this issue, as the proliferation of undocumented foreign nationals was destroying communities such as Welkom?
Regarding issues of corruption, he said that they had dealt with corruption in the municipalities and provincial governments, but the presentation had not dealt with what was being done to uproot corruption. There needed to be a focus on the investigations, and the people of the Free State needed to know what happened. Action needed to be taken, and those responsible for corruption had to be held accountable. When the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) and other people presented to the Committee, they stated that they had referred the matter to various investigative units, but there was little action. These cases were at the heart of the issues that the Free State was facing, and investigation into these issues needed to be expedited.
Mr Motsamai raised concerns over Ga-Rankuwa police station. There were no generators at the station to assist during load shedding, which resulted in it being closed. There was another issue in Katlehong North, where the police did not attend to calls and said it was due to load-shedding. Only two working cars were at the Thokoza station, and they serviced four sectors. It was said that most of the cars had clutch issues. There was high crime in Lenasia -- why was there not a satellite police station there so that the SAPS could combat crime in that area?
The Chairperson reminded Mr Motsamai that this meeting was currently dealing with issues in the Free State, and that Mr Motsamai was raising concerns over matters in Gauteng. She apologised for interrupting him.
Mr Motsamai understood and concluded.
Minister Cele stated that currently, five out of the nine provincial commissioners were women. It had never happened before that there were more female police commissioners than males. He expressed concern over the lack of staff in police stations in the country. One could never find a fully staffed police station in South Africa. In 2010, the SAPS had 195 000 staff members, but that number was now down to 176 000. He had signed off 203 members almost every month. He had invited them to indicate why they were leaving the service, and they had all given responses varying from exhaustion to progression issues. The figures were becoming worse in the Department. The planned addition of a further 20 000 would put SAPS close to the 2010 figure. The current shortage was still going to be with them for a long time, however. This created issues like police stations closing overnight due to insufficient staff. The current batch of people in training would come out on 15 December, and police stations could be staffed. The standard observation when one looked at these police stations would be that there was not enough staff.
Concerning SAPS members in the Free State partaking in criminal activities, he said that the Department had visited places in Free State where they had met with farmers who were affected by the stock theft issue, and had received feedback that the situation had improved because the Hawks had acted after receiving information and people involved in stock theft had been arrested. One could not deny that there were syndicates in South Africa that put together farmers, police and other parties, such as truckers, to move stock to other provinces and across borders.
Referring to Mr Dodovu's visit to Welkom in 2020, he replied that in July 2019, a response unit had been set up to tackle the illegal mining issues in Welkom. The illegal miners would dig underground and divert water and electricity to their own operations at the expense of the community. The unit had improved since it was placed as a permanent unit. The Free State was the first province to have a permanent unit to deal with illegal miners. It was an issue they were dealing with, seeing that it had also erupted on the West Rand.
As Members wanted further information per province, the management and leadership of the respective provinces needed to be given an opportunity to prepare better information to provide to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked the Minister to advise the Committee on what was being done at the executive level to deal with the infrastructure issues, and to expedite them.
Minister Cele replied that one could not deal with infrastructure issues without the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure presence. Two departments really frustrated the police -- the DPWI and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). Many maintenance issues in the stations often required ministerial intervention. That intervention would lead to the ministry finding out that it was actually the DPWI that needed to fix things. It was difficult to deal with issues relating to infrastructure without the DPWI. A lot of rollovers happened concerning infrastructure. He hoped that someday the Committee would host a joint hearing with the respective departments so that the Committee could get a picture of the SAPS's frustrations.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister, and said that individual Members of the Committee had also picked up on these issues. Engagements would be arranged with the DPWI to see what was actually creating these challenges. She requested that the Minister provide this information before the Committee went to the province.
Mr Sileku suggested that after the meeting, the Chairperson should get the highest decision maker in a province to indicate the issues relating to infrastructure which were of concern to the Committee and the officials, for the Committee to have effective oversight on their next visit to the Free State. This would help the Committee avoid coming back with more questions than answers.
The Chairperson said that this proposal was over and above the broader process that the Committee wanted to engage in, but could perhaps be looked into administratively.
She thanked the Department, the SAPS delegation and the Committee.
She adjourned the meeting.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.