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Western Cape tops list of criminally charged police officers

Police Minister Bheki Cele provided statistics of personnel on the wrong side of the law. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele provided statistics of personnel on the wrong side of the law. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 26, 2023

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The Western Cape has emerged as the province with the highest number of SAPS personnel, including police officers, who have been criminally charged over the past five years.

The province recorded 1 360 personnel out of 7 166 that were charged for crimes between 2018-19 and 2022-23.

Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed this when he finally provided statistics of personnel on the wrong side of the law.

In July, Cele came in for criticism when he refused to disclose the number of police officers that have been criminally charged when MPs from the EFF and Freedom Front Plus made enquiries.

Cele had complained about the absence of meticulous and stringent validation of information, saying inaccurate data could harm the reputation of innocent police officers, and asked to provide the requested information this month.

In his written response, Cele said 6 843 police officers and 323 administrative staff were charged with criminal offences during the period.

The SAPS personnel were charged under 64 categories of offences including murder, robbery, bribery, corruption, defeating the ends of justice kidnapping, rape, theft and hijacking, among others.

The breakdown of members of SAPS charged for criminal offences per provinces:

  • Western Cape 1360;
  • Gauteng 1174;
  • Free State 1073;
  • KwaZulu-Natal 916;
  • Eastern Cape 894;
  • Northern Cape 471;
  • Limpopo 441;
  • Mpumalanga 433; and
  • North West 404.

Cele’s response showed that the number of criminally charged SAPS personnel dropped to 1001 in the 2022-23 financial years.

The figures recorded 1677 personnel charged in 2018-19, 1598 in 2019-20, 1648 in 2020-21 and 1242 in 2021-22.

According to Cele, a total of 688 SAPS personnel were successfully prosecuted.

“A total number of 261 are no longer part of the SAPS,” he said.

Cele said 158 SAPS personnel were dismissed from work, 41 dishonourable discharged, 31 resigned, 19 took early retirement, five left SAPS on pension, another five died and two took ill-health retirement.

Cele also revealed that 78 SAPS members were charged with kidnapping, 29 stock theft and four for cash-in-transit heists over the past four years.

The number of personnel arrested for murder was 220, 195 for robbery and 110 for rape between 2019-20 and 2022-23.

Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said: “Our men and women in blue's key role is that of ensuring the safety and security of our populace as provisioned by our South African Constitution.

“Any such acts which seek to erode that mandate are regrettable.”

He also said despite the figures, there was a clear demonstration that the many law-abiding officers were resolute in making anyone, despite their standing, accountable.

“This is demonstrated by the fact that the very people who would have investigated and charged those implicated would be police officers. Therefore most of our police officers remain committed to serving the people of South Africa with dignity. We shouldn't paint them all with the same brush,” Mamabolo added.

DA MP Okkie Terblanche said the number of SAPS suspects charged were very alarming.

“What is more alarming though are the numbers found guilty on any criminal and/or disciplinary charges,” Terblanche said.

He noted that the Independent Policing Investigating Directorate (Ipid), which is responsible for investigating the majority of the charges, was not coping with the workload.

“Their Director is bemoaning a budget shortfall rendering the organisation nothing more than a toothless bulldog. Over the past quarter Ipid only managed to get convictions in 13 criminal and 31 disciplinary cases,” he said.

NFP MP Munzoor Shaik Emam said the statistics were alarming.

He said there was a need to relook into the recruitment of police to ensure that those recruited were fit for purpose, properly vetted, monitored and subjected to lifestyle audits.

Cape Times