President Jacob Zuma calls for tougher, more effective fight against crime
29 September 2009
President Jacob Zuma concluded a meeting with police station commanders this afternoon by calling the fight against crime to be intensified. “It cannot be business as usual,” he said.
The President was accompanied by the ministers of Justice, Correctional Services, Social Development, State Security, Police, and Minister for the Planning Commission. Also in attendance were the national and provincial leadership of the police, representatives of metro police services, and the Independent Complaints Directorate.
President Zuma highlighted the need to fast-track the review of the Criminal Procedure Act so that it compliments the work of the police. He reiterated the need to reinvigorate the police.
The meeting took place at President Zuma’s request. It is part of a series of meetings the Presidency has been having with public servants who are at the coal face of service delivery.
The President has met with school principals, and will shortly meet with personnel in the public health care sector and with mayors and municipal managers.
Government has identified the fight against crime as one of its top five priorities. Crime continues to plague our society, terrorising our communities, undermining our development and damaging our economy.
“Clearly, the resolve to create a better life for our people will remain an illusion unless we resolutely deal a devastating blow to the crime and its debilitating effects,” President Zuma said.
The President chose to meet with station commanders because it is through the local police station that most members of the public interact with the police, and it is here that the fight against crime will be won or lost.
The President wanted to hear from station commanders about the challenges they face in their daily work, and about what they think needs to be done to improve their ability to tackle crime.
The discussion was productive and frank. The representatives of the police were able to raise their issues and concerns without reservation.
Among the matters discussed was the lack of coordination between the police and the justice department. The police found that their effectiveness was being undermined by the ease with which suspects – even repeat offenders – get bail, lengthy trials, low rates of conviction, and corruption.
A number of provinces had problems with the misalignment of jurisdictions between police stations and magistrates courts and other courts.
They raised problems with the availability of resources for police work. A number of provinces, particularly rural provinces, raised problems of the shortage of police stations and the large areas that a single station is supposed to service. There was also concern about the physical state of police stations, some without electricity or toilets, and the availability of resources such as vehicles.
Commissioners also raised the role that social problems play in contributing to crime. Concern was raised about the effects of poverty and the impact of rapid urbanisation on crime levels in the major centres. Drug and alcohol abuse was also cited as a significant contributing factor to high crime rates. Some raised the proliferation of guns as another major problem.
Some provinces also observed that underdevelopment of residential areas makes the work of the police more difficult. The lack of tarred roads, street names and house numbers in many parts of the country makes it difficult for police to respond quickly to emergency calls.
Cross-border crime was raised as a challenge, requiring more effective border control measures and better cooperation between SAPS and police in neighbouring states.
One of the issues that was raised repeatedly was the position of children, both as victims of crime and as perpetrators of crime. There was a need for the building of additional safety centres and the employment of greater numbers of social workers and other specialised professionals.
An issue was raised about discipline, morale and capacity within the police force. Among other things, this means that greater attention needs to be paid to recruitment processes and the training of new recruits. Police have to undertake duties that are not core policing functions, covering work that is supposed to be done by the social development, health or justice departments.
Addressing the police commissioners, President Zuma said: “We urge you here and now, to dedicate yourselves to work with us to develop new culture and ethos within the police force. Let us work towards developing a new police force.”
For comments and soundbites please contact:
The President’s Spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya
Cell: 072 715 0024
Issued by: The Presidency
29 September 2009