Zuma flatters, lectures cops

2009-09-29 16:03

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma flattered policemen with words of praise then lectured them on absenteeism and laziness at a meeting with 1 000 station commanders at the Voortrekker Monument, in Pretoria, on Tuesday.

Zuma, who spoke frankly for more than an hour, started off by congratulating the police on their hard work and dedication.

However, he also criticised those whose work ethic was not up to standard.

"Absenteeism, laziness in the discharge of duties must be a thing of the past... we must also seriously eradicate corruption within the police force," he said.

"The legendary loss of dockets leading to botched cases should end."

Cops spending time at malls, taverns

Zuma said he had received many complaints from the public - some of them through his presidential complaints hotline - about the police spening time at shopping centres and taverns during working hours.

South Africans were also complaining about the emergency number 10111 not being answered, or callers being told that no police vehicles were available.

"We must really work hard to turn the image of our police stations around. Police stations must be the hope of our citizens," said Zuma.

Zuma was addressing the police a week after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced the latest crime statistics which showed that about 50 people a day were murdered in South Africa, that business robberies were up 41.5% and house robberies 27.3%.

Taking notes

The uniformed police officers listened intently to him, some vigorously making notes, especially when he started lecturing them.

Zuma vowed to change legislation to make it easier for the police to shoot in dangerous situations.

"Criminals don't take an oath to do warning shots," Zuma said to loud applause.

"My thinking is once a criminal takes out their gun the intent is clear... police must then act to protect themselves and innocents," he said.

The president, who reiterated the government's undertaking to bring violent crime down by 7%, acknowledged that not everyone would be happy with the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act that would make this possible.

Abnormal criminal problem

"We have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa. We must therefore apply extraordinary measures."

Zuma received a standing ovation after his speech.

The media was asked to leave the room while he held private discussions with the station commanders.

A superintendent, who did not want to be named, told Sapa the meeting would boost the morale of police officers.

"This is encouraging to directly tell the president about our frustrations at police stations," he said.

"He [Zuma] is serious about crime combating," said the policeman.