In the police’s 2017/18 annual performance plan it was revealed that the personnel number will be decreased from 194 431 to 191 431 by 2019/20.
In their report, tabled to Parliament, the police said the reduction in numbers “is not expected to reduce the department’s overall performance over the medium-term, as most of its performance targets in relation to the investigation and detection of crime will remain constant over the medium-term”.
DA Western Cape spokesperson on community safety Mireille Wenger said the province already has 900 fewer police officers than it did in 2013.
“This means that the actual number of police personnel serving our communities is shrinking. The news that the national ministry is cutting the number of police posts is very worrying, especially since we already have a large shortage of police.”
Wenger said many police stations with the worst police-to-population ratios are in severely crime-affected areas, where police resources are needed the most.
“The latest information I have indicates that 21 police stations in Cape Town have less than one officer for every 500 residents of that precinct, and these are almost exclusively crime-affected communities.”
Some of the areas include Harare where there is one officer for every 826 residents; Nyanga with one officer for 754 residents; Tableview with one officer for every 603 residents; and Khayelitsha which has one officer for 569 residents.
“Every citizen of South Africa deserves to live in a society free of the fear of crime, no matter where they live. In order to achieve this, police management at national government must address the severe under-resourcing in Cape Town immediately before crime gets worse.”
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) represents more than 150000 police officials, corrections and traffic officials. Spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the planned cut would mean there will be a compromise in the fight against crime.
“In the short-term, the decision is not well thought out. It is only with the consistent decrease in crime that such a consideration can be made.”
The positions to be affected are levels one through to 10, which include priority programmes like visible police and detectives. Mamabolo said the force relies on those officers.
“Most of these officers form an integral part of the actual policing work, and this move will leave a lot of visible gaps that would see the decline in police visibility, therefore encouraging criminals to continue with their criminal activities.”
Mamabolo said it would trigger a lot of unhappiness as most members are breadwinners.
Johan Burger, senior researcher, Crime and Justice Programme at the ISS, found it strange, given the crime situation that there were plans to cut personnel.
“We've had an increase in violent crimes in the last four years. All indications are that these will increase. We've also seen a rise in public violence in the last decade.”
Burger said detectives were struggling to keep up with cases as they lacked capacity.
“Another concern is that the police are spending millions each year on paying out civil claims it looks like they are trying to save money in crucial areas in order for them to pay out these huge amounts.”
Calls and e-mails to Vuyo Mhaga, spokesperson for Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, and Vishnu Naidoo, spokesperson for the police, were not answered.