On 07 March 2023, the Standing Committee on Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sports of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament was briefed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) on its response to the 2021/22 Policing Needs and Priorities Report.
The Provincial Top Brass of the SAPS reported that the successive decrease in the province’s staffing levels culminated to 18 867 (88%) at the end of 2021/2022, 10% below the national Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) standard of 98%. The decrease was attributed to multiple reasons, including the reduction of the government’s Compensation Budget for the MTSF of over R300 billion, which affected the Department’s plan to recruit members for basic policing functions
The MEC remarked that a lack of resources constrained government from delivering an effective community safety strategy and stressed previous commitments to working with SAPS and the Committee to make the Western Cape a safer place. Employment and Wellness issues continue to receive focus, along with the vehicle management system in the province. He emphasised that policing needs and priorities were directed to all spheres of government. The whole of government approach was vital.
Members noted that the Zondo Commission had made countless references to the police. They asked whether SAPS had conducted follow-up investigations into the recommendations that emanated from the Zondo Commission report.
Members lamented the scourge of gangsterism and the capacity of the Criminal Investigation Division to root it out. They asked how many drug houses had been confiscated by the SAPS and handed over to the community. On illegal guns and ammunition, they wanted to establish how many guns SAPS had recovered and where. They also pointed out the lack of safety and security and policing in rural and informal settlements. These communities faced a criminal onslaught.
Members also asked how many dockets were lost in the Western Cape if 62% of these dockets got lost in the record archives stall. How is it possible that the SAPS are not able to track who takes out these dockets? Why was there a continuous sense of laziness in the South African Police Services, especially when it came to cases like smash and grab and Jacob is violence, for instance?
Briefing by the South African Police Services
The police reported that the successive decrease of the Western Cape’s staffing levels to 18 867 (88%) culminated at the end of 2021/2022, 10% below the national Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) standard of 98%. The decrease is attributed to the following reasons:
- The reduction of government’s Compensation Budget for the MTSF of over R300 billion, which affected the Department’s plan to recruit members for basic policing functions;
- Secondary, being the natural attrition of staffing levels due to service terminations (voluntary or involuntary), retirement and death;
- Lastly, there was no intake and/or training of entry-level constables during the National State of Disaster for COVID-19, due to the restrictions on movement and gathering of persons.
The Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Mechanical Services ensure that service standards are maintained by achieving the set targets for repairs and services. The vehicle availability in the Western Cape is approximately 87%. To reduce expenditure on the service and repairs of vehicles, a standardised ratio target was set at 60/40 – this means that 60% of vehicles are to be repaired in-house and only 40% are to be outsourced to external providers. In-house repairs remained a priority to increase the turnaround times and reduce expenditure. All requests for outsourcing of vehicles on the RT46 contract are subjected to scrutiny for approval.
The Member of the Executive Council responsible for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Mr Reagan Allen, made a few inputs. He thanked the SAPS for the presentation, and stressed that there would be continued engagements from Community Safety's side, and commitments would be honoured.
A lack of resources constrained government from delivering an effective community safety strategy and stressed previous commitments to working with SAPS and the Committee to make the Western Cape a safer place. Employment and Wellness issues continue to receive focus, along with the vehicle management system in the province. Concerning the provision of police vehicles, the MEC indicated that the Department had managed to deliver about 14% of the target by December 2022.
He emphasised that policing needs and priorities were directed to all spheres of government. The whole of government approach was vital. He said that the Housing Department would play a role when it came to drug houses, etc.
Ms D Baartman (DA) referred to slides 22 and 42 of the presentation and the culture of corruption within SAPS. The Zondo Commission made countless references to the police. She wanted to establish whether SAPS had conducted follow-up investigations into the recommendations that emanated from the Zondo Commission report.
She also referred to a recent case of Adams and others versus South Africa, about the corruption within the SAPS echelons of the provincial police command.
It painted a bleak picture of corruption. Apparently, the 28’s gang had great influence. This clearly illustrated the capture of lower-ranking police officers painted a picture of corruption. She wanted to ascertain how many cases of corruption had been lodged against police officers, and how many officers had seen successful convictions.
Ms Baartman then claimed Parliamentary Privileges and Immunities. She said that the people believe that SAPS is corrupt. It is fair to say that SAPS has a culture of corruption. She said that court judgments and investigations clearly illustrated that a culture of corruption had existed within the SAPS.
Ms A Cassiem (EFF) had questions about the Financial Services Commission. Several investigators had made claims of not being imbursed for overtime work and unsafe working conditions, especially for women. Requests for overtime payments seemed to have fallen on deaf ears in an age that required specialised units to be well-resourced. The Member specifically referred to those working on crimes against women and children. These investigators also investigated other serious crimes. This workload sometimes led to cases not being properly investigated and cases being thrown out of court.
Ms Cassiem then spoke to the scourge of gangsterism and the capacity of the Criminal Investigation Division to root it out. She asked how many drug houses had been confiscated by the SAPS and handed over to the community. She had also expressed interest in the number of people that now benefitted from these dwellings.
On illegal guns and ammunition, Ms Cassiem wanted to establish how many guns SAPS had recovered and where. The Member also wanted information on how many police officers had been brought to book for corrupt and organised crime.
She decried the lack of safety and security and policing in rural and informal settlements. These communities, she added, faced a criminal onslaught. She called for mobile offices to be deployed. These mobile offices would not only help with policing but also administrative services such as certifications and affidavits.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) recalled a recent oversight visit to Kannaland where one of the top brass cautioned Members on the voracity of official statistics. SAPS claimed to have six police vehicles for the Ladysmith area, yet only one was operational. Ms Windvogel noted that SAPS could not possibly claim to provide an effective service delivery with such limited resources.
The Member also wanted to establish to what extent the provincial command verified the information they received from the ground.
Replies by the SAPS
A General from the SAPS replied that the entity had not taken a personal or emotional stance on being labelled as corrupt. The entity did not approve of corruption within its ranks therefore it was not part of its culture. General further noted that that anti-corruption policy was in place and focused on prevention, detection, investigation and resolution. If it is found after these four steps that an officer has made him or herself guilty of corrupt practices, the resolution stage would then indicate a dismissal. The Police Services had lost many members compared to dismissals. He explained that, through prevention interventions, various interactions with members were conducted at parades, and cluster commanders met with officers.
He explained that detection took place through inspection and the internal controls that the Police Services had in place. If someone was found to be corrupt through an investigation, that officer would also be observed over a period of time to consolidate a case. Many police members were found guilty and dismissed through these actions.
The General further said that corruption within the police ranks took hold as a result of greed as well as police members living way beyond their means. Officers are always encouraged to work hard and climb through the ranks.
The General requested that written responses on how many officers were dismissed be provided to ensure accuracy and validity.
The overtime policy of the police was premised on the rule that an officer came to work on his or her rest day/s. Payment would only commence once confirmation of the overtime hours worked in line with the policies. Many officers made themselves available for overtime work and would then not pitch up. This created problems, as these officers would then be paid for days not worked.
The General further explained that a submission had been made to the district commissioners to make funds available for overtime payments. It was recalled that, as of 06 March 2023, documents had been signed that authorised payment.
On rural safety and security, the General informed that a rural safety strategy was in place.
On gangsterism, a SAPS official informed that an anti-gang unit had been established in the Western Cape. On the lack of resources such as vehicles in the rural areas and mobile offices, he indicated that the police had a distribution plan in place that took local considerations into account in procuring service vehicles. It would be illogical to procure sedans for far-flung rural areas, when the latter required off-road police vehicles.
An anti-corruption unit was established within the police and reported excellent results. Their investigations had delivered tangible results, such as arrests and convictions.
The General informed Members that a rural strategy had been in place. In as much as the provincial command prioritised those police stations with high levels of criminality, it also took into account the resource constraints experienced in rural areas.
It was important that the Police Services were not found wanting in situations where you have two officers – one manning the police station while the other did the actual policing. It was envisaged that the new recruits would be deployed to the rural areas to capacitate these precincts.
A Rural Flying Squad had also been deployed all districts in the Cape Winelands, the West Coast and the Garden Route.
The Brigadier emphasised that a rural safety strategy was in place along with a forum that looked into the different pillars of rural safety and service delivery issues such as resource and human resource constraints.
Another official emphasised that, when it came to vehicles, the rural safety strategy had been quite clear about the requirements, and suitable vehicles had been provided. Additional measures included a rural safety committee chaired by the agricultural department in the Western Cape. The MEC for Agriculture attends on an ad hoc basis. Issues related to safety and security in rural areas are discussed as well. In all 90 police stations in rural settings, coordinators were appointed to monitor service delivery deliverables, and sector commanders were roped into assisting in this endeavour.
On the safety and security of women, children and vulnerable groups in South Africa, it was reported that various programmes had been undertaken, especially on gender-based violence. On the question about mobile police units, Members were told that a written response would be provided to reflect more accurately on the matter.
On Kannaland, a written response would be provided, as no information was on hand to the ferocity of the claims made.
The police also ensured that rural areas received the same attention as metropolitan areas in all of its operations and special programmes.
On police corruption, the General said that the judgment had received attention at national office, and a task team had been appointed to lead the investigation. He recalled that a team had visited Cape Town as of last week to look at the matter. Recommendations should be expected soon.
The SAPS said that senior generals had been appointed across the province to assist with data management.
SAPS also responded to the question on Ladysmith, and indicated that a provincial management forum had been established to look at the resource constraints in rural municipalities. To this effect, the entity informed the Department that 22 vehicles had been procured for that precinct. Four have been boarded. The matter was being looked into. According to information on hand, 19 vehicles should be available for policing.
SAPS said that the onus also fell on the district commander to ensure that regular assessments are done on fleet management. It was also important for station commanders to ensure that all vehicles were operational. They should also seek the necessary approval to remedy the situation. The current financial year had provisioned for three vehicles to be fixed in Ladysmith.
When it came to data input processes, the data capturer did not validate that data. The police used cross-references – for example, on the CAS system. Station commanders also signed a certification of validation. On the district level, these certifications are validated by the district commanders.
The Chairperson said that he found the replies very interesting. He recalled visits to police stations where the commanders would inform Members that information printed on leaflets did not accurately represent the situation on the ground. Reports had indicated that 62.9% of dockets got lost in the system, and 63% were lost in the court system. But the police had said these numbers had been distorted.
An official replied that those figures had been quoted out of context. He had contacted the Department to comment on the manner in which the P&P report had been structured. The Colonel said that he had conducted the analysis for the study himself.
About 62.9% of all dockets lost were lost at the Dockets Archives Stall. That meant that if ten dockets went missing, six of the ten would have disappeared from the Documents Archives Stall. In the case of courts, he informed Members that only 11% of dockets got lost in the court systems. It was important to place those figures into context.
He said he also wanted to respond as a member of the integrated resource management committee in the Western Cape, on overtime payments. He informed Members that detective services worked differently as they had an overtime budget that was split into two parts. The overtime budget covered operations. This was when officers were called up to come and perform certain operations, and they would be remunerated accordingly.
He said that giant strides had been made, and specialised units such as the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit had received extra allocations for overtime.
The Chairperson said that his follow-up question would naturally be how many dockets were lost in the Western Cape if 62% of these dockets got lost in the record archives stall.
Ms Cassiem said that everyone knew that dockets got lost. What was important to establish was whether officers had been held to account for these transgressions. When a person visits a library and takes out a book, the library keeps records of that item being taken out against the old lady. How is it possible that the SAPS are not able to track who takes out these dockets?
Replies by the SAPS
An official of the SAPS said that information on how many dockets got lost in the Western Cape would be answered in written form. The reasons for the losses could be attributed to several different aspects. The system tracked documents to where it was last tracked, i.e., who booked the document out. Stringent measures had been in place that insured dockets were not lost.
The SAPS informed Members that, should an officer be implicated in the theft and or disappearance of dockets, criminal and internal disciplinary measures would ensue against such an official. On the End-to-Corruption Unit, the Brigadier advanced that they were also looking into such practices. It must be noted that the police had seen several disciplinary hearings followed by dismissals of those officers implicated in graft. The criminal convictions and the disciplinary actions taken against those found guilty served as an example of the police acting against this scourge.
Commanders, group leaders and detectives all play an integral part in securing a docket, and these dockets could only be retrieved from the archives through instruction from the commanders. Upon closure of an investigation, the docket is booked out to the document archives still. In cases where a case was incomplete, the docket would still be sent through the archives for safekeeping and retrieved when new evidence came to light. At times, dockets are also withdrawn at court level. These were also sent to the document archive still. SAPS had a system that is called ‘The 12 Apostles’. A docket’s case number also contained the month the case was lodged. That month determined into which bundle a docket would be placed.
The same information was entered into an electronic system that required detectives to sign manually and digitally for any dockets booked out. He was adamant that documents could not just disappear. Therefore, scrutiny would inevitably fall on the archive section itself. This was where the detection part of an investigation would kick in.
Mr M Kama (ANC) welcomed the presentation and the responses provided by the SAPS. His first question was posed to MEC Reagan – on the submission of the P&P report to the national authorities. The Member wanted to ascertain what the MEC intended to do about some of the information that it now be corrected.
He recalled a visit to Kraaifontein Police Station. During this visit, the sector commander drove him through the community. It became evident that bad roads severely impeded the police's ability to deliver an effective service.
He also wanted SAPS to provide information on all cases scanned into the integrated document management system, and how that system could assist in docket losses.
The Member also cautioned against politicking when it came to crime. He said he welcomed the frustration that the police had raised on it being corrupt.
References were also made to the Zondo Commission outcomes. He said that the provincial command was expected to respond to these comments, which he found out of order. He said that he would have thought that the Chairperson would have interceded at that moment as Members should not erode the confidence in the SAPS and should rather support it, as Parliament. This was against a background of the SAPS already being under fire.
Ms Cassiem said that, besides the dockets being lost, she also had a problem with dockets that were not prioritised in certain cases like rape, theft and domestic violence. These cases hardly receive attention and end up being concluded after a year with no criminal charges emanating from them.
Why was there a continuous sense of laziness in the South African Police Services, especially when it came to cases like a smash and grab, for instance. She recalled standing in front of the Lentegeur Police Station when she was robbed of her phone. She said she went inside the Police Station to ask for immediate assistance, as she could still track the cellphone. She was told she had to stand in the queue, and was only helped after two hours. By this time, the live location on the cellphone had disappeared. She called for a change of attitude by the Police Services and for them to be more responsive.
Ms Baartman replied to the comments made by Mr Kama. She said she had a right to quote newspaper articles and court judgements, as these cases were in the public domain. She really wanted clarity on slide 42, especially on the integrated justice system.
She called for cooperation on information sharing, especially since the provincial command was going to start a dashboard. She suggested the Department of Communications also be invited to engage with them on these systems.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) recalled that, during Major-General Jeremy Vearey's tenure, the Committee received regular updates on Court Watch Briefs. The updates showed major improvements and disciplinary measures meted out against officials.
Mr Christians asked what ensured that dockets were completed and filed correctly. He also wanted to ascertain whether there was any information-sharing between the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Replies by the SAPS
The environment design did influence the efficacy of policing. Bad roads and potholes were a big problem. Some crime scenes took almost six hours to process in areas like Siqalo and Marikana.
All dockets were treated with priority. The elements of the crimes were taken into account.
On Court Watching Briefs, it was indicated that SAPS was dealing with misconduct. Misconduct offences would normally kick in when dockets were not delivered to court. SAPS has a way of tracking dockets against an officer.
An official indicated that the Police Services did have a programmed place that dealt with queue management and assessing efficacy.
Closing Remarks by the MEC
MEC Allen recalled being told about a police station with a 0% vacancy rate. Thereafter he decided to pay a courtesy call to this police station, as it was quite an improvement to have a police station that had no vacancies. He discovered something different on the ground, as the commander in question told him that the station did in fact have unfilled vacancies. He also conducted his own research into the number of drug houses in the Western Cape and came to 1 512, whereas SAPS had said that there were only 272. This was why verification of information was so essential. He said that he did not want to fail in his duties. He invited Members to accompany him on his research visits.
He also informed Members that there had been an increase in violent crime in urban areas. No farm murders were recorded. He called for greater synergy.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for appearing before the Committee, and thanked the Members for attending the meeting. He asked that Members submit recommendations or requests for more information to the Committee Procedural Officer. A report will be compiled on the meeting today for discussion at the next Commttee meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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