Police Minister Bheki Cele has called for an overhaul of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) of 1997, saying it was outdated and did not do enough to protect victims of crime or law enforcement officials.
Cele, speaking on the second day of the 10th National Congress of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) in Durban, addressed Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, who was also present, saying the act was more sympathetic to criminals than law enforcement.
“When a breadwinner is lost, the family go through financial distress.
“Prisoners get the best medical facilities, they can even study towards a PhD in prison because the system is more sympathetic towards the criminal. We are saying the system must be more sympathetic to the victim and to the police officer who may lose his or her life while doing their jobs.”
Cele said South Africans had questioned why the Social Relief of Distress grant was R350 a month when the government spent thousands of rand a month to keep a prisoner in custody.
He said next week’s release of the latest quarterly crime statistics would show that crime had reached “unacceptable” levels in South Africa.
“On average, every three months over 9 000 women are raped, and another 6 000 individuals are murdered over that period.”
Cele said Monday’s robbery of Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga on the N3 highway between Vosloorus and Heidelberg was an example of increasingly brazen criminal behaviour.
“The war has been declared by criminals, but when you fight a war, you don’t ask who started it. You get on with it, and when the dust settles, you ask questions,” he said.
He said police needed greater legal protections in the execution of their duties as they sought to protect and defend communities.
“When police are shot at and they respond, it’s a must that they must win. They are the last buffer between a stable and safe community, and criminality,” he said.
“One of the most important human rights is life itself. It’s important that lives, including the lives of police, remain a human right that is defended at all costs. The call to say that police can’t die with their guns in their hands is the correct call.”
He called on the Department of Basic Education to work to ensure children attend their classes and complete their schooling to prevent them falling into gangs.
“Early intervention must be done beyond the work of law enforcement agencies.”
He said while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration had made strides in employing more police members, the ratio of police officers to the population had fallen significantly since 2010, when there was one officer for every 222 people, to one officer for every 413 people today.
Lamola, who addressed delegates later, said he agreed with Cele that the CPA is outdated.
“It is an act of 1977 and incompatible with the new and evolving nature of society. We are in a process to completely overhaul the CPA which is not compatible with a democratic system that needs to respond to victims of crime and allow law enforcement to do its job.”
Lamola said his department would soon release a document and ask for input on amendments to a bill being drafted to replace the CPA.
Popcru president Zizamele Cebekhulu said deficiencies in the CPA were preventing police from performing their work.
“This is an issue we discussed at the recent Policing Indaba.
For example, if a police officer arrests a man who committed a crime involving abuse of a woman, on arrival at court, this man will be standing with a lawyer provided by the State who will defend him.
Meanwhile, the policeman will be asked to stand on the side of the victim, even without training in presenting evidence in court.
Minister, this needs to change.”