100 days to shake up SAPS

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Copy of ca Nkosinathi Nhleko GCIS New Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

Cape Town - In the next 100 days, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko will visit SAPS offices countrywide, launch a community outreach programme to encourage better relations between police and citizens, and oversee the opening of four new police stations.

Closer at hand, however, could be his ministry’s involvement in steps to be announced in relation to the five-month-old platinum miners’ strike, marred by killings and violence in recent weeks. This emerged during Sunday’s briefing on the ANC’s national executive committee meeting.

Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the meeting had urged the ministers of police, justice, state security and others in that cluster to ensure the security of citizens amid strikes or protests.

“The state cannot be helpless when citizens are killed,” Mantashe said, noting five workers had been killed in recent weeks. “The state can’t be idle. What is today known as the Marikana debacle started with watching workers being killed… The government was nudged to deal with the matter (at the meeting).”

However, he said details would be up to the ministers. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have both raised concerns over strike-related violence.

Meanwhile, the August 2012 police killing of 34 Marikana miners – after the killings of 10 people, including two police officers and two mine security guards the week before – remains the subject of a commission of inquiry set to wrap up hearings at the end of next month before compiling its report and recommendations for submission to President Jacob Zuma.

Nhleko said it would be best to await the commission’s findings.

‘But he said it was possible the lessons would be “around operational matters and matters on leadership, which may not necessarily have to do with policing” as the SAPS became involved in what was essentially a labour dispute.

On the policing front, Nhleko said the emphasis would be on a professional, accessible service with uniform standards, accountable to South Africans in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), South Africa’s vision to reduce poverty and inequality by 2030 and for an efficient developmental state.

The NDP states personal safety is a human right and a “necessary condition for human development”. It outlines a demilitarised police, well-resourced and staffed by skilled professionals who render a professional service with respect for the rights of equality and justice.

“We want to focus on the NDP. We can’t do that without a community outreach programme… We’ll continue to look at ways and means to improve the service and increasingly professionalise the police,” Nhleko said.

“We need to step up efforts to engage with residents around creating safe and secure communities.”

Policing was not just about fitness or handling a gun, he said, but “how the police renders a service, how the community sees that service”. Two weeks into his portfolio the minister continues to be briefed on a job which is a poisoned chalice.

As the political boss, Nhleko is in charge of policy, but implementation of policy, management and operational issues like crowd control are the SAPS’s responsibilities.

The service has been marked by public turf wars in top police ranks, police brutality and killings that have hit the headlines – from the 2011 death during a community protest of Ficksburg activist Andries Tatane and the Marikana killings to the death of Daveyton taxi driver Mido Macia who was dragged behind a police van while handcuffed to it.

Despite the challenges of perception, Nhleko said today’s police service had transformed itself, and continued to do so, to be a far cry from what was in place in 1994.

Police were taking action to ensure zero tolerance of wrongdoing in their ranks, he said. The number of police officers arrested for fraud and corruption had stabilised at about 20 a month, down from an average of 125 officers a month in previous years.

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