Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi told the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) 10th congress in Durban that attacks on dedicated law enforcement officers threaten the country’s constitutional order.
Popcru reported that at least 67 police officers had been killed since January.
Losi speaking on Monday said officers were killed weekly and that they needed to be bolstered in numbers but also with resources to fight criminals.
“It is time we tightened our laws to deny bail to any person charged with attacking law enforcement officers and introduce mandatory life sentences for those convicted.”
“The state must ensure all SAPS, Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and traffic officers have the necessary tools of trade to fulfil their work.”
She said police vehicles must be in working condition, police stations and correctional facilities must fully modernise, and skills and training of officers must be continuously invested in.
She said there was a need to shift SAPS officers from desk duties to community and specialised police units.
“We need to reinforce our correctional facilities and break the stranglehold of gangs.
“In 2021, Parliament overhauled the criminal legislative framework with three progressive gender-based violence acts. If these laws are to achieve their critical objectives in this war against GBV and sexual harassment at the workplace and in society, then government must move with speed to ensure public servants are empowered to enforce their implementation,” Losi said.
She called for public education campaigns to empower citizens to understand their rights and obligations.
“The ratio of public servants to the population has plummeted since 1994 when we had one million public servants for 34 million South Africans to today when our population has nearly doubled to 62 million citizens and our public service has fallen failed to keep pace at a mere 1.2 million.
“SAPS has fared worse with a decline from over 200 000 to just over 172 000 today. Yet we are surprised by the rising levels of crime.”
Losi bemoaned the share of the budget going towards paying public servants, saying this has fallen from 35% to 31%.
“So where is the bloated and out-of-control public service wage bill?
“What has changed is rampant load shedding, a collapsing Transnet and Metrorail, dysfunctional state-owned enterprises and municipalities, endemic crime and corruption and dangerously high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
She told delegates that the crisis facing the state is not an expenditure crisis, but is a governance and socio-economic crisis.
“It requires the state to address the causes and not the symptoms. If we are to move forward as a society, then the fundamental obstacles to growing the economy and rebuilding the state must be dealt with.”