Durban — The South African Policing Union (Sapu) in KwaZulu-Natal is concerned about frustrated Special Task Force (STF) unit members “silently checking out of jobs” because of financial constraints.
STF is the elite police tactical unit of the SAPS. It handles high-risk operations that fall beyond the scope of classic policing, requiring specialised skills.
Sapu provincial manager, Nurse Mdletshe, said the number of members, now at 53, is declining and KZN is now left with less than 23 members.
“The province is left with very few officials because frustrated SAPS members leave for greener pastures.
“One of our main concerns is that these members are provided with a specialised refresher course which requires a lot of budget. Now, if we lose such skilled employees it becomes a problem because, in crime-fighting, this unit plays a crucial role in facing highly skilled criminals.
“We cannot shy away from these issues. The national office needs to pay attention so that the grievances can be resolved. Special Task Force members work in a very risky environment and the government needs to consider that. If the number of police leaving rises, the authorities should have a strategic plan that can prevent them from leaving,” said Mdletshe.
The government will never overcome the crime crisis if it chooses to sweep the issue under the rug, she said.
SAPS compensation was one of the issues raised by Police Minister General Bheki Cele at the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) 10th Year Anniversary Conference held at the Durban ICC, two weeks ago.
He said the issue of unfair pay for SAPS members is disheartening and should be scrutinised. The authorities are in discussions concerning the compensation, he said.
According to Mdletshe, the Special Task Force tops the list of frustrated members unhappy with their salaries, followed by members of the National Investigation Unit (NIU) and the Tactical Response Team (TRT).
“Another concern is the disqualification of unit members who are not permitted to get their allowances after they are injured. They get these injuries during the refresher course training; it does not make sense as to why the system does not allow them to get compensation after injuries. We call on the authorities to treat the request with the urgency it deserves because if they don’t, criminals will run the country,” she said.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said SAPS members resign for different reasons and it’s not a decision that the organisation can stop.
“The SAPS attrition rate is well within national and international norms. Every year, we continuously train and deploy members to specialised units. This is an ongoing process to ensure there is no vacuum in terms of deployment of specialised capabilities to address medium to high-risk situations across the country.
“When members resign, we conduct exit interviews to check for common denominators; we utilise that information to try to improve on overall productivity,” said Mathe.
Crime analyst and senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Dr Johan Burger said the police minister and national commissioner should intervene urgently because the STF is an essential unit in crime-fighting.
“These are the best, trained police officers for high-risk situations. The police simply cannot afford to lose them,” he warned.
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