Depoliticise the SAPS for it to be effective and trusted by people, says security expert

Depoliticise the SAPS for it to be effective and trusted by people, says security expert. Photographer: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Depoliticise the SAPS for it to be effective and trusted by people, says security expert. Photographer: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 23, 2024


A security expert from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Willem Els, attributed the failures of the SAPS to cadre deployment.

Els said the appointment of civilians to the highest office of the police was one of the major reasons the police standards went out of the door.

“The problem the force is facing now is the politicising of the police, and policemen and women should be police, not politicians. Competent people were done away and were replaced with cadres who employed families and friends.

“Hence we can see a deep decline in the quality of our policing. We have lost people who were supposed to be operational commanders, leaders who were supposed to understand policing and also to guide and implement policies for young people,” he said.

Els further said the challenge started at the top, where the late national police commissioner Jackie Selebi was appointed the first civilian to be commissioner of police.

He said from there onwards it was downhill, where every commissioner who occupied that office left it with a cloud hanging over their heads, adding some left with accusations of corruption, including the current Minister of Police, Bheki Cele.

“Youngsters are running around without a clear leadership. It’s a free-for-all. Things will fall apart within the police in terms of training standards, and discipline, and most importantly the internal discipline also collapse.

“If one looks at the issue of civil claims brought against them, they spent billions in paying them out and that amounts to 10% of the police budget and you check how many people have been disciplinary charged.”

Els said all these factors were due to a lack of training, understanding, and impunity as they sometimes become law unto themselves.

He further said it was heartbreaking to see how the country’s policemen and women lack simple but important basics such as when to use a firearm and when not to use it.

Els said he assessed that these police were scared to use their firearm because they were not properly trained on how to use them and use lethal force.

On solutions, the security expert said the government should start appointing suitable candidates, saying when appointing a police commissioner, they should try appointing someone like KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.

He hailed Mkhwanazi as one of the best in the country, saying that he was one of the policemen who walked the talk.

“We need to get people who understand policing that can control all the strategies. We also need people who can implement those strategies. They will have to be benchmarked on other police services and bring the training standards to the top tier.

“There must be a thorough vetting; we can’t afford to be sitting with criminals on the police force,” Els added.

Many South Africans have been complaining about the SAPS’s failures to solve simple cases, some even questioning when they were arresting the killers of famous rapper AKA.

Some have even lost hope that his case will be solved any time soon. For years now, the SAPS has been labelled as being unprofessional, corrupt, incompetent, and an inward-looking organisation.

Dispelling the notion that police were ineffective and failing in dealing with crime, police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said men and women in blue were making considerable progress, working jointly with all stakeholders involved, including communities and other law enforcement agencies.

“Since the adoption of Operation Shanela, we have increased visibility through high-density operations, regular roadblocks, stop and searches, and more than 380 000 suspects have been arrested for various crimes ranging from murder to rape,” Mathe added.

She further demonstrated that police were effective by saying through Operation Shanela, police managed to arrest about 300 000 suspects in the month of December alone.

“The roll-out of the SAPS festive season operations has seen heightened foot, vehicle, and air support patrols at identified hot spot areas, including all ports of entry, local, provincial, and national roads, public spaces such as malls, parks, and beaches to ensure incidents of crime are minimised.

“To date, more than 61 051 patrols were conducted and this will continue and be intensified as people start migrating back to their workplaces and back to school for learners.”

The Star