Why SA is losing war on crime

2009-10-03 16:05

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma heard horses-mouth accounts of police corruption and crime from the top cops he met in Pretoria this week who told him why they were losing the battle against the underworld.

Their accounts chimed with an Independent Complaints Directorate report which showed a frightening growth in ­police violence, deaths in detention and criminal charges against police ­officers.

The ICD is a police institution which investigates deaths caused by cops as well as members of the public’s complaints of crimes and misconduct against them.

Speaking freely behind closed doors, the station commanders told the president of their battles with corrupt officers who take bribes, steal dockets and ­befriend criminals instead of apprehending them.

“We were happy to be given the opportunity to tell him our problems,” City Press was told by one of the commanders. “He (Zuma) told us that he heard our concerns and that he would attend to them.”

A commander told City Press that the list of problems presented to the president included the full range of logistical deficiencies that prevented them from doing their jobs. This included a lack of vehicles, telephones, proper buildings and trained personnel.

Serious discipline problems were ­reported to the president, another ­commander said.

“You know this (South African Police Service) training method is very poor. It’s really frustrating. They don’t even know when to salute their seniors. We have ill-disciplined, weak police officers. They can’t even recognise the types of crimes people bring to the police station.”

Commanders also alleged that many of their police officers were corrupt. “They are on the payroll of criminals.”
These officers, Zuma was told, were ­responsible for the disappearance of dockets. They were also unwilling to arrest South Africa’s big criminals.

“Many police officers are involved in crime themselves.”

The ICD yearly report reveals that a record number of 6?119 criminal and other complaints against policemen had been registered at the ICD in 2008/09.

Deaths in police custody and deaths as a result of police action are up from 621 in 2005/06 to 912 in 2008/09.

Criminal complaints against police officers increased by 32% from 1?643 in 2005/06 to 2?285 in 2008/09.

And this may not be the complete picture, said crime researcher and author Dr?Antony Altbeker. He believed the increases in police crimes and deaths in custody quoted in the ICD report were too low. “I am sure there is more. I do not believe this number.”

Referring to the 15% increase in deaths caused by the police, Altbeker said the statistics were “quite shocking”.

It was hard to know why it happened and what was driving it, he added.

How was police management treating the problem of growing violent and criminal tendencies in the police service?

“All irregular acts and practices from our members are dealt with accordingly, within the existing laws,” said police spokesperson assistant Commissioner Nonkululeko Mbatha, on behalf of ­national Commissioner Bheki Cele.

To compound the problem, the ICD is as ill-equipped to deal with the cop-crime problem as the police service is to deal with South Africa’s crime woes.

The ICD managed to complete only 55% of its workload, according to its report.

Of the 5?395 cases concluded between April last year and March this year, 1?201 complaints were substantiated.

This included 270 death, 33 domestic ­violence, 373 criminal and 525 misconduct cases. A total of 3?882 complaints were judged as unsubstantiated.

Asked why the ICD completed only half of its work, ICD head Francois Beukman replied that the directorate had dealt with the majority of the “most serious crimes”.


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