Tough festive season ahead as officers face critical challenges

SAPS recorded 69 lives lost since the beginning of the year. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers.

SAPS recorded 69 lives lost since the beginning of the year. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers.

Published Dec 12, 2023


Police killings, blockages in the criminal justice system, fair wages and working conditions are among the critical issues flagged by Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) president Thulani Ngwenya that their members will face over the festive season.

He said the escalating issue of police killings had a severe impact on the safety of all South Africans with SAPS having recorded 69 lives lost since the beginning of the year.

“The government must publicly declare war against those who commit this deadly crime, and the current legislation must be amended to classify this barbaric act as treason.”

He added that the Criminal Justice Cluster (CJC) continued to grapple with challenges.

“The CJC is overburdened with heavy caseloads and suffers from insufficient financial and human resources.

“Notably, as workers serving on the front lines of the criminal justice system, police, traffic and correctional service officers will be working throughout the holidays, while other South Africans are spending time with their families and enjoying the festive season.

But despite increased visibility and the diligent efforts of traffic police to apprehend unruly motorists, the efficacy of their efforts is undermined by blockages and a lack of expediency in the Department of Justice.”

Popcru said court operations begin to stall in November, with numerous cases deferred until as late as March the following year.

Ngwenya further criticised government’s failure to implement the third year of wage increases as laid out by the agreement in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSBC) Resolution 1 of 2018.

The union said the loss on pension growth since the non-implementation of the last leg of the PSCBC Resolution has amounted to an average loss of 10.7%, which will come to over R1.2 million in 10 years.

The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services said it noted the concerns of Popcru.

Department spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said: “We encourage all citizens, especially motorists to comply with the rules of the road during this festive period.”

This will help ensure that the minimal human resources in criminal justice are directed at very serious crimes and are not stretched by intransigent motorists conduct on our national roads. There are also ongoing efforts to ensure that the criminal justice system is integrated. The deployment of technological tools such as the Personal Identity verification system is a case point.”

He said during the 2022/2023 financial year, the Person Identification and Verification Application (PIVA) solution checked over 203 138 accused persons and identified over 60,981 (30%) as having prior criminal records. Around 5,371 (2.6%) wanted individuals were also identified as linked to Saps circulations as persons of interest in other cases, Phiri said.

“The Integrated Justice System (IJS) programme's and PIVA solution's achievements inspire us to continue delivering efficient and effective services, benefiting all South Africans and continuing with modernisation journey. In addition the IJS system integrations between the Saps, the NPA, and the DoJ&CD have enabled the IJS Transversal Hub to process over 355 273 cases electronically. Since its inception, the IJS system has processed more than 3 283 139, making it an effective tool in managing the criminal justice system.

“We do however accept this is work progress and more collaborative and co-ordination is required by all role players in the criminal justice system to (ensure) that it works optimally and in a truly integrated system.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s office did not respond to questions by deadline on Monday.

Cape Times