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The Gauteng government paid out almost R100 million for 2 079 claims against the police in 2011 and 2012, bringing the conduct of SAPS members into sharp focus yet again.
The figures emerged in written replies to a series of questions on civil claims against the SAPS in the province from DA provincial leader John Moodey.
Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko revealed that the paperwork alone for claims against the police service in the province amounted to more than 15 000 pages, and it was thus impossible to provide detailed information on the claims.
She said the volume of cases in the province was so large that it would take “ten legal officials about 40 full working days to generate the information”.
“The salaries of the legal officials and the time spent on generating the report does not make it viable to reply to this question,” she said.
Moodey had also asked why there was a sharp increase in the number of claims – from 652 in 2011, to 1 427 claims in 2012.
But Mazibuko downplayed the role of the police in this increase, saying the heavy case-load was due to an “increased awareness by the general public of their rights in terms of the constitution”.
She also blamed the increase on “certain firms of attorneys” which, she said, specialised in “claims against the SAPS and are actively pursuing alleged victims to file outrageous lawsuits” against the police.
Mazibuko’s admission comes amid studies which show brutality cases recorded against police officers increased by 313 percent in the 10 years from 2001/2 to 2011/12.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has recently had to deal with severe public dissatisfaction with the police with significant numbers of complaints of inefficiency and corruption.
The murder of civic activist, Andries Tatane, the shooting of 34 mineworkers in Marikana last year and the brutal killing of Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia – all incidents in which police were the alleged perpetrators – have resulted in a serious problem of perception for the police.
Last month Durban yachtsman and former policeman Peter Shore, 41, alleged that he had been slapped, kicked and punched, racially abused and arrested by a police officer – supposedly for looking suspicious.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said last month that 11 880 criminal cases had been opened with the police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) in the five years up to 2011/12.
However, ISS Crime and Justice Programme director Gareth Newham said that these reports had resulted in just 2 576 prosecutions and 129 convictions. This meant that only one percent of criminal cases opened against police officials resulted in a conviction.
In 2011/12 more than a third (36 percent) of disciplinary hearings ended with no sanction against the officer, and a total of 2 049 cases were withdrawn or ended in a not guilty verdict, Newham said.
“It appears police misconduct is met with impunity,” he was reported as saying.
“The single most likely outcome of a case against the police is no outcome.” This undermined “the morale of and public trust in the many honest police officers who do their work professionally and within the rules”.
For taxpayers the news was equally bleak, seeing civil claims valued at more than R840m in relation to assault were laid, and R1.1 billion related to shootings.
Total claims against the police doubled in the past two years, to R14.8bn.
Newham reported that 1 448 serving police officials in the SAPS had convictions for serious crimes, ranging from murder to rape and assault.
The SAPS budget had increased 222 percent to R66.7bn over the 10 years from 2003/4 to 2013/14, and police personnel had increased by more than 50 percent, or 67 035 posts, during 2002/3 to 2011/12.