Xolani Koyana

SOUTH Africa is facing a crippling shortage of police officers, with more than 1 000 vacant posts – and the Western Cape is the worst off.

While the national department has started recruiting, the training process is likely to be completed in only two years.

The lion’s share of those new posts will be allocated to the province. In the interim, police in Khayelitsha have to take on seven times the amount of cases with which they should have to deal.

Testifying at the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry yesterday, Brigadier Leon Rabie, organisational design practitioner in the police’s national office, said the Western Cape was among three provinces, along with Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, with the lowest staff numbers at production level. This referred to police officers who were detectives, warrant officers and sergeants.

The Western Cape had the lowest number of officers in these ranks. The province had 17 126 officers in the service, he said.

“We identified that due to some practices in the past, it seemed the Western Cape started lagging behind in terms of the allocation,” Rabie said.

He said the addition of 663 entry-level posts would allow the province to grow closer to the national average of 106 percent staffing.

Rabie said the recruitment process was under way and once they had completed the training, officers would be allocated between the three provinces.

He said that according to what the national office considered to be the ideal, there should be at least 894 officers collectively at the three Khayelitsha stations.

Although actual staffing numbers had not been provided to the commission, Rabie said the present amount was 30 percent less than the ideal.

He said according to the system, the number of murder dockets a detective should handle was four a month, a stark difference compared to the number of cases police at the Khayelitsha office currently dealt with.

Commission chairwoman Justice Kate O’Regan questioned the system, saying it seemed “at odds” with what was happening on the ground. Detectives have previously testified that they handle at least 30 murder dockets a month.

“It seemed to be entirely disconnected to what the experience is on the ground in Khayelitsha,” Justice O’Regan said.

She said it seemed that the police in Khayelitsha were being set up to fail.

They were expected to do their work effectively despite being overburdened – an impossible task, Justice O’Regan said.

Advocate Norman Arendse SC, who is representing the police, put it to Rabie that station commanders had complained to the commission about their resource allocation.

Rabie said one of the factors considered when allocating resources was information received from station commanders.

He said station commanders had to understand that resources were allocated based on the budget and “they would have to do with what they had.

“There were no reserves or an unlimited kitty that the national office could draw from”.

Commissioner advocate Vusi Pikoli said one would expect that since Site B Khayelitsha station had been identified as a presidential station, it would be fully resourced.

Rabie said the station had since been subdivided into three police stations, with its resources shared by Harare and Lingelethu West police stations. The inquiry continues today.

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