Address by Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, MP at the POPCRU National Crime Summit, Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg, Gauteng
29 May 2012
Programme Director, Dr Tshenuwani Farisani
COSATU President, Mr Sdumo Dlamini
Gauteng MEC for Community Safety & Liaison, Ms Faith Mazibuko
POPCRU President, Mr Zizamele Cebekhulu
The entire POPCRU Leadership
Representatives from Business, CPFs, NGOs and Academic Fraternities
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentleman
History has imposed on all of us the onerous responsibility to achieve the goal of a better life for all the citizens. The responsibility is even more on those of us who have a duty to provide safety for millions of South Africans.
The responsibility, although daunting, is doable and that is what each one of us must draw strength from. What this calls for is that we need to constantly relook our approach in the fight against crime and strive for excellence.
A platform such as the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) National Crime Summit provides for an opportunity to reflect on the road we have traversed. We therefore humbly acknowledge and express our appreciation to address this important Summit.
Our programmes will have to address the desperate needs and concerns of our citizens. Criminal acts deny and take away the most elementary human rights from our people. Mobilised around a clear vision of the kind of society we wish to become, the nation should act in partnership - each sector contributing to the realisation of the common good.
The determination, the will and the ability of our people to fight crime until victory cannot be questioned. The justness of our cause is unchallengeable.
The unity of citizens on the question of crime should act as a source of great strength to us. Today there can be no doubt about the determination of the overwhelming majority of the citizens of this country to take concerted action to help us squeeze and liquidate crime.
Our fundamental point of departure is that South Africans have it in their power, as a people and as part of progressive humankind, to continually change the environment in which we operate in the interest of a better future.
Whilst creating a path of the kind of SAPS we envisage and promote, we have a huge challenge of ensuring that we create the caliber of cop who is fully enshrined with democratic principles. It is a fact of history that policing in South Africa was traditionally enforced selectively, with total disregard of human rights and authoritarian.
While these characteristics ensured that the police were effective under apartheid in controlling the political opponents of the government, it meant that they were poorly-equipped for crime control and prevention in the new democracy.
Under apartheid rule the police service lacked legitimacy and functioned as an instrument of control rather than as a police service dedicated to ensuring the safety of all citizens. In transforming the SAPS we needed to be real about what was working and what was not. For example, police presence in townships was used to anticipate and respond to collective challenges to apartheid.
As we embark on the transformation of the SAPS, our approach to transformation must also speak about the type of police service we want to see underpinned by the following principles:
- A police service that inspires confidence.
- An officer who respects and upholds the Constitution.
- A police officer who does not tolerate disloyalty and ill-discipline.
- A police officer who is enforcing the law without fear or favour.
- A police officer who recognises that we are a developmental state and embraces effective service delivery within the Service.
- A police officer that demonstrates through their deeds a firm commitment to ensure government priorities are realised.
This inheritance has had a number of important consequences which have weakened the ability of the department to combat crime; in that authoritarian policing has few (if any) systems of accountability, oversight and does not require public legitimacy in order to be effective.
Again what this calls for is continuous de-education of unwanted old practices and re-education of the kind of cop we have. To achieve this it cannot be the role of management of the police alone but active participation and contribution of unions is a must. We want to hear the voice of unions not through the media, but in open and constructive engagements with the SAPS management.
It is apparent that both parties (management and unions) share the same sentiments which are about the wellbeing of officers, perhaps what has been a disjuncture is an adopted approach. We need to develop a coherent system and approach which discourages media bashing but encourages constructive platforms for exchange of such views.
There have been some disturbing trends wherein we have seen public and media onslaughts between unions and management. We cannot reduce the sensitive issue of crime to being ‘sources’ at the behest by some in society, whose interest is purely driven by sensationalism and commercialising crime.
Let us refrain, both as leaders and members to resolve our differing organisational management views through public domains. It does not help the cause but advances the opportunistic views of those who want to derail the progress on crime. We should take a stance, starting from this summit, to dismiss such bad behaviour and conform our energies to the task of crime fighting.
The police are, and always must be, subject to the will of the people they serve. It should therefore not be an opposite where people have to beg and plead police to serve them. The response time to crime victims must be speeded up, the courtesy and treatment we give to victims must not be seen as a favour.
As police leadership, almost every week we are participating in community meetings. As we do so, we have consistently stressed the involvement of the citizens in policing. This is informed by the recognition that it is not police alone who combat and prevent crime. We have, throughout the democratic period, sought to improve community involvement, input and influence over policing priorities and practices.
To a large extent we also need to acknowledge that while there are pockets of excellence within the organisations, there is sadly a culture of unaccountability and poor management. We have emphasised the culture of oversight on police but that such a process must be constructive, open and fair. It does not help any cause when police are painted with the same criticism brush.
If we are serious about fighting crime we equally need to demonstrate with immediate effect our seriousness about transformation issues. We cannot have window-dressed transformation which is not aligned with the new dispensation.
The programmatic transformation agenda within the police service still remains an imperative driven by the need to develop the all-round capacity and readiness to unleash telling blows against crime and corruption.
We also note that in some circles, deliberate efforts to undermine the internal organisational reporting roles but we want to upfront say, there should be no confusion. The SAPS, as an organ of government must perform without fear or favour on any person who breaks the law. To enable it to do so, it requires the kind of police officers who conforms to clear principles of batho pele, whose conviction is not influenced by external factors.
We should not have any blurring lines when it comes to command and control. We are intent on creating an understanding that first and foremost it must serve the people under the Constitution and in a democratic setting generally.
When we crack the whip on underperformance and poor management at station level, we shall do so without fear or favour. We require no permission from anybody as we improve this organisation. The emphasis is simple and clear: we shall reward excellence and equally, have no intentions of celebrating mediocre performance.
The ANC-led government has placed the issue of crime high on the agenda over a five-year period of this current administration. The task that confronted us then was to act urgently to galvanise the service into action. However, without high levels of discipline, command and control this would not be possible.
That is why three years ago we began paying attention to this issue, to ensure clear lines of command and control and instill a sense of discipline amongst the members. At the centre of this perspective, was the need to strengthen the foundation for community policing, improved accessibility and accountability.
We have to ensure that the culture of human rights and the importance of upholding the law at all times becomes a central part of the training of the police. The changes formed part of our efforts to strengthen oversight over the police through legislative changes regarding the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the Civilian Secretariat for Police, as well as steps to the review the SAPS Act in its entirety.
We cannot address this important gathering without looking into perspective, the upsurge in the killing of members of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police as such acts are a direct threat to our hard won Constitutional democracy.
A killing of a police officer is a threat that should not be taken lightly by society. We want to utilise this occasion as we had done before publicly, to once again applaud POPCRU for your continuous efforts, particularly as we organised a summit last year to find solutions into this opportunistic act by criminals. As a collective, we remain confident that we shall work to end this scourge.
We reiterate the call to citizens to pledge to work for peace, respect and integrity. We challenge all to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit to help our society advance its democratic culture. To further encourage fellow citizens to work with government and the law enforcement agencies to apprehend those who plan, commit crimes against the police and the people of our beloved country.
As a member of the South African community, you are expected to report violations of the law and the Constitution as you know them to occur. To neither give nor receive help from any criminal conduct. By so doing we would be in a stronger position than ever to help secure our democracy.
As we indicated during our Budget Vote in Parliament three weeks ago, we have now instructed that greater focus be placed on the 10 priorities for this current financial year. As we shared with the citizens, we emphasised a need to place significant focus and direct our energies in line with government’s five key priorities, building on the progress we have attained whilst consolidating the lessons learnt for the safety of all South Africans.
Amongst the key priorities, is the issue of smarter policing and our engagement with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) revamp process. However, the first step is the harmonisation of our Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector within the SAPS.
The realisation of this objective will speak to various issues amongst them the e-docketing. The e-docketing system will eliminate the problem of missing dockets. Huge resources have been dedicated to the ICT within SAPS and we need to make sure that we are receiving returns on this investment. ICT should also be able to contribute to the increased detection rate, the roll out of war rooms and the improvements in our Forensic Laboratories.
The other vital priority, which relates both to service delivery within SAPS and to government’s priority, is to ensure that the pace of building new police stations is accelerated. In this financial year, Supply Chain within the SAPS must be able to deliver on this strategic objective in a timeous, clear, accountable and transparent manner.
The very existence of the police station structure itself is a deterrent to crime. The management of the police is currently finalising its strategic and operational plan which will give impetus in achieving this goal.
One of the crucial priorities for this year is the policing of public protests. In 2011 we also introduced a new policy for the area of Public Order Policing (POP) and are encouraged by the positive feedback we have received. For this financial year, we have tasked the management of police to ensure the policy is effectively implemented throughout the country.
The policing of community protest in a democracy needs to reflect ethos of human rights. We cannot use maximum force in a situation requiring minimum force. At any moment we must be able to uphold and enforce the law. Such POPs Units must be capacitated, strengthened with clear command and control structures to effectively carry out these duties, so that relations between police and communities are not compromised, but sustained.
As we conclude, we are calling for a consistent and constructive voice of POPCRU within the policing environment. More than before, we need to hear this voice of reason. The fight against crime is gaining momentum and this is by and large, through the vital role of POPCRU.
A fundamental question would be: how do we enhance the programmes, resolutions and declarations from this Summit to become arsenals in the reduction of crime? The answer in this lies in ensuring that we avoid turning this august gathering of thought into a talk shop, but that it becomes a fountain of ideas wherein we shall derive clear principles to transform the SAPS into a world-class policing service, if not the best in the world.
In doing this, there are no quick fixes. Like the road to social progress, it is always under construction. This would mean conviction to our cause of building a developmental state, it would mean selfless sacrifice to ensure that through our contribution amongst others, we propel our nation to high places of social progress.
In the final analysis, the best antidote to crime and criminality is confidence in the mass of the people, always mobilised to be in motion. They are the sure guarantee to the advancement and defence of the cause of peace.
Yet we are also conscious of the fact that a fundamental condition for our success in the fight against crime does not merely depend on sound domestic policies and programmes, but through ensuring that we fully implement them. We dare not fail.
I thank you.
Issued by: South African Police Service
29 May 2012
[ Top ]