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Cape Town - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has instructed national commissioner Riah Phiyega to act urgently to “avert and reduce” civil claims against officers under her command.
“In a bid to avert and reduce the lawsuits instituted against the members of the SA Police Service, management must review and strengthen the command and control practice across the department,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Quoting from a recent parliamentary reply by Mthethwa, it said the minister had asked Phiyega to “look into the issue of litigations as a matter of urgency”.
“We need to close this gap by identifying training needs of our police, and, where appropriate, take tough disciplinary action against those who abuse the law.”
A total of 5090 civil claims were dealt with by SAPS during 2011/12, up from 3007 the year before.
The statement comes amid intense scrutiny of the SAPS by both national and international media, following the death of taxi driver Mido Macia.
Nine police officers in Gauteng face charges of murder after Macia was handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged along a street in Daveyton last month. He died hours later in the Daveyton police station's holding cells.
The SA Human Rights Commission said in a statement earlier this year that it noted with concern “the increasing number of reports of excessive use of force by the SAPS”.
The ministry's statement on Tuesday detailed the cost of cases - paid by SAPS for legal services rendered by the state attorney and by private attorneys - over the past three years.
Amounts paid to the state attorney have risen sharply - from R84.7 million in 2009/10, to R131.3 million in 2011/12.
The amount paid to private attorneys in 2011/12 was just under R4 million.