The police have become the first and last line of defence in the fight against the spread of coronavirus, hence the National Treasury has adjusted the police budget upwardly by R3.7 billion to enable them to undertake their obligation of enforcing various lockdown regulations. That was what the Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, told Members of the National Assembly (NA) in a virtual mini-plenary sitting of the NA when he presented the Budget Vote for the Department of Police recently.  

Presenting the adjusted budget of the department, Mr Cele urged South Africans to hold hands in the fight against the pandemic and not betray this cause. He dedicated the adjusted budget to the gender-based-violence (GBV) and to the police’s selfless commitment in the fight against the spread of the virus. “We find ourselves in a quagmire of an invisible enemy that attacks everyone, including police officers,” declared the Minister.

“Covid-19 has redefined conventional policing,” he claimed, “the current regulations demand different operating procedures. The police had to adjust to the 360% turn while not losing their focus on serving and protecting the nation.”

He commended the relentless effort of the police who died from contacting the virus and the sacrifices they continue to make against all odds. He added: “When the world closes, policing continues. When businesses close, policing continues. When there is lockdown, policing continues.”

He said even when more than 95 police lost their lives, policing continues. He said despite all these challenges, police management worked hard to ensure that the well-being and morale of the police remain at all-time high. Well over R3.7 billion has been prioritised to respond to Covid-19.

Some of the adjusted budget will cater for Covid-19 public education and awareness campaign to facilitate the involvement of community safety and safety forums. Regarding GBV, he pointed out that “we should all concur that those who abuse women and children, abuse our nation”. 

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said the largest threat to the future of the economic growth is crime.

She commended the Minister for ensuring that during Covid-19, the police are in a position to support the state “in enforcing the national disaster regulations with the necessary care and empathy that South Africans deserve”.

She admitted though that Covid-19 has put an extra burden on the limited resources of the Department of Police. As such, she welcomed the suspension of the sale of alcohol. In her view, this “will go a long way in reducing violent crime against women and children and lessen the burden of care in the country’s hospitals”. 

She said as a committee, they welcome the additional R3.7 billion to the police budget. In her view, this will assist the police to be in a better position to address the safety of “women, children and members of the LGBT community”.

She decried the scourge on the economic conditions of women in the country. “The introduction of a sustainable social security system would assist our country to eradicate all forms of GBV. The question to ask is: do people have confidence in our police service, if yes, to what extent?” she asked.

“In this regard, we need a strong Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to investigate any kind of criminality. And it should have full jurisdiction in all sectors of policing, including metro and traffic officers.”

Speaking on the increase in the killing of farmers, Mr Martin Whitfield stated that 22 years ago, President Nelson Mandela stood up and provided leadership against the killing of farmers because he appreciated the implication of that to the economy and food security.

He said it is time for the Mr Cele to clarify farm murders as priority crimes and the police should be provided with the necessary resources to disrupt the networks of these crimes. Further, he said: “We need more action and less words to put an end to this scourge. Let’s work together to make this year a year in which we turn the tide against rural crime, and we also need a budget that will enhance our intelligence networks and strengthen the investigative capacity of the police in relation to rural crime.” 

Rev Kenneth Meshoe said It has been reported that in October last year, 103 000 cases have been withdrawn because of poor police investigative capabilities. He said that was nine times more than in the previous year.

Of the sexual violence-related cases, Rev Meshoe stated that over 65% of them were withdrawn before they were heard in court. “It is hardly surprising that according to Afro-Barometer, the South African Police Service (SAPS) is the least trusted institution in South Africa.”

He further proclaimed that according to Corruption Watch, the SAPS is the most corrupt institution in SA. He said: “It is alleged that the police erect random stops for extortion than upholding the law.”

Ms Jacqueline Mofokeng underscored the critical role played by the police in enforcing compliance with regulations meant to curb the spread of Covid-19. She urged the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to ensure that the law takes its course on police officers who abuse their authority. Coupled with that, she said, there is a need to ensure that the principles of good governance are adhered to by the SAPS. “The Department of Police must have consequence management for fruitless and wasteful expenditure and must have audit action plans to strengthen its internal audit processes.” 

Mr Nigel August said the police are vital in preventing and combating crime, but it’s unfortunate that people feel the opposite. Unfortunately, the police are seen as part of the collective failure when it comes to the epidemic of children and women abuse.

Given the myriad of challenges that the police are faced with, he asked if is this budget is enough amid the excuses of understaffing and lack of resources for the police to do their work. “Without the real knowledge of the public demand for the police and the context within which they operate, passing the police budget could just be another box ticking exercise,” he claimed.

Ms Zukisa Faku decried the increase in the number of GBV cases. “The rate of GBV in South Africa is five times higher than the global average. There’s one death too many that is related to GBV in our country.”

She called upon Minister Cele to see to it that GBV cases are prioritise and given the resources they demand so that the state can treat victims with respect and the police be in a better position to arrest the perpetrators of this crime.

By Abel Mputing

 27 July 2020