SAPS, Hawks need better leaders

2017-10-22 06:00
Berning Ntlemeza. (City Press, File)

Berning Ntlemeza. (City Press, File)

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The problem with South Africa’s law enforcement is poor leadership, which is why the selection processes for a new national police commissioner and head of the Hawks need to be transparent, according to two organisations.

Corruption Watch teamed up with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) to ensure that properly qualified and skilled personnel occupy the positions currently filled by acting incumbents: Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba for the police and Yolisa Matakata in the Hawks.

The organisations said the campaign had came about due to concerns about who would replace Riah Phiyega when her contract as national police commissioner ended in June.

To make matters worse for law enforcement, head of the Hawks, Berning Ntlemeza was fired in April, after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria upheld a previous ruling declaring his appointment invalid and unlawful. Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation had brought the application due to questions about Ntlemeza’s integrity. On September 15, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed his challenge to the ruling.

The ISS and Corruption Watch said they had found a decline in the performance of police units such as crime intelligence and detective services, despite a 50% increase in their budget.

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said: “The budget increase together with the decrease in performance alerted us that the problem is not one of scarce resources, but rather a question of how these are used and allocated, and this is clearly a leadership problem.”

Head of the governance, crime and justice division at the ISS Gareth Newham said: “This is clearly established, not only by the performance figures, but also by the fact that we have had five police commissioners in the last eight years, the last four of which left in disgrace. They either went to jail or were dismissed.”

The organisations said that the appointment of a national police commissioner and a head of the Hawks should be a much more transparent and competitive process.

The National Development Plan, which was adopted by Cabinet in September 2012 and by the ANC at its national elective conference in Mangaung in December 2012, provides clear and practical recommendations for the appointment of these positions.

Newham said arrests and convictions made by the Hawks had decreased by between 80% and 60% between 2010 and 2015.

He said poor policing had led to criminal networks taking the gap and organising themselves and getting away with these crimes.

Newham explained that, according to statistics, crimes such as sexual offences, assaults and rapes had decreased. But this was not because they no longer happened as frequently, but rather because public trust in the police had declined.

“It is apparent that fewer and fewer victims are reporting these crimes every year because of increased feelings of insecurity towards South African police. Murders and robberies, which are more likely to get reported, are more reliable when looking at crime trends.”

According to Corruption Watch and the ISS, there were 3 119 more murders and 31 758 more armed attacks last year than five years ago.

“We are hoping that in the stats being released on Tuesday, we might see a decline in these figures,” Newham said.

The campaign appeared to be gathering response from a range of role players, such as trade unions, the police portfolio committee in Parliament and civil society organisations.

The objective, according to Newham, was to ensure that South Africans understood how underperformance in these two positions affected their lives.

“People who believed the failures of police to be related to resources will now know that’s not true. There are many experienced, honest officers in the police service doing a very good job under the circumstances and many of them could be good national police commissioners,” Newham said.

Police in Gauteng managed to work out a strategy that reduced car hijacking by 32%, business robbery by 19% and household robberies by 19% between 2009 and 2011.

A lack of leadership, however, resulted in these successes being reversed.

“We have seen an increase in these categories in the last few years, with car hijacking going up close to 14%. Those police officers that could stop this aren’t getting the support they need from the national office and that is where the problem lies,” Newham said.

Read more on:    berning ntlemeza  |  iss

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