Popcru expects the new police minister to push for legislative amendments

Newly appointed Police Minister Senzo Mchunu. Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

Newly appointed Police Minister Senzo Mchunu. Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 1, 2024


The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) is urging the newly appointed policing ministers to allocate sufficient resources to combating crime and maintaining safety and security.

In the past, under former police minister Bheki Cele, the union and others raised serious concerns about activities within the ministry that affected police, including the budget cuts and declaring an attack or killing of police officers as treason.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Senzo Mchunu as the new police minister, while Pieter Groenewald is correctional services minister.

The deputy ministers of police are Polly Boshielo (former Limpopo MEC) and Cassel Mathale (former premier and deputy police minister).

The union said it was stressing the need to have a capable, efficient and ethical Criminal Justice Cluster (CJC) leadership that can optimally meet the needs and expectations of its staff complement and the populace at large by ensuring the allocation of sufficient resources in combating crime and maintaining safety and security.

It said the CJC has for the longest time been under immense strain, with continued infightings, high levels of crime rates, police killings, overcrowding and understaffing – all coupled with huge backlogs in various areas.

Popcru said the new era brings about an opportune moment to remedy this past trend, and to bring about much-needed confidence through co-operation with all stakeholders in working towards achieving stability.

“We expect the newly appointed ministers to be committed to transformative leadership that addresses historical injustices and contemporary challenges within the criminal justice system. We anticipate the insurance of policies that promote fairness, transparency, and efficiency in law enforcement, corrections, and judicial processes,” said Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo.

“We advocate for better working conditions for law enforcement officers, including adequate remuneration, safe working environments, and comprehensive support systems. The union expects the new ministers to prioritise ongoing training and professional development to equip these officers with the skills needed to handle modern-day challenges effectively.”

Mamabolo said they further put emphasis on community policing strategies that foster co-operation between law enforcement agencies and communities, thereby enhancing trust and effectiveness in crime prevention.

He said this will require proper allocation of resources to ensure that law enforcement and correctional facilities are adequately staffed, equipped, and maintained.

Mamabolo said for the longest of time, the union has been concerned about the frequent changes in ministerial and other leadership positions which have led to policy discontinuity.

“Popcru is concerned about maintaining stability and continuity in crucial reform processes such as the Criminal Procedure Act already under way, and therefore stresses the importance of a long-term vision that transcends individual tenures and focuses on sustainable improvements. Internally, there have been outstanding challenges which are yet to be addressed,” he said.

Mamabolo said in regard to police killings, the union was extremely concerned about continued killings of law enforcement officers in the country, a phenomenon which remains highly regressive in addressing the proper functioning of the criminal justice system in South Africa. Law enforcement officers have become targeted victims of the worst crime, with attacks and killings escalating in the country.

“This unfolding national crisis has the potential of threatening the country’s peace and stability as the majority of these dedicated men and women are killed on duty while preventing, combating or solving a crime whilst some are attacked while guarding inmates, traffic and police officers ambushed when conducting patrols, with their official firearms and uniforms being stolen with the probable intention of committing further crimes.

“We reaffirm our call for government to publicly declare war against cold-blooded criminals by amending current legislations to classify this barbaric act as treasonous, and expect the newly appointed minister to push for legislative amendments in this regard,” Mamabolo said.

He said the police-to-population ratio also remains a challenge, with the current police-to-population ratio of 1:450, which still falls short of the UN ratio of 1:220 officer to the population. This problem is attributed to inadequate personnel.

Mamabolo said the following remedial measures should be considered to curb the cold-blooded murder of men and women in blue: review police safety strategy and plan; with the current reviewal of the Criminal Procedure Act, the killing of law enforcement officers should be considered treasonous; the Criminal Procedure Act must be amended to classify killing of police officers as treason; improve the compensation for killed police officers to sustain a better life for the dependants; various stakeholder within the Criminal Justice Cluster must collaborate to effectively resolve this deep-rooted challenge; employment of professionals and the increase of a service allowance.

When it comes to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the union said it noted the overcrowding and short-staffing crisis among correctional facilities, with the staff complement which stood at 40 000 in 2009 is currently standing at 38 000 with only 27 000 officials working at the coalface of correctional centres. It demanded the employment of more custodial officers.

“We have on various occasions expressed that DCS must not renew the contracts of private prisons in the country, and should develop a clear plan that will include admitted trade unions within the department on the winding-up process,” Mamabolo said.

Popcru said for the DCS to fulfil its rehabilitation mandate as directed by the Constitution, they are of the view that the following measures should be urgently undertaken: promotion policy and shift system should be prioritised; correctional centres should be self-sufficient; correctional centres should be built in rural areas; the employment of more personnel is vital; and the dilapidated infrastructure should be refurbished.

On the fragmentation of traffic, the union note that there is a need to hasten the nationalisation of traffic under the Department of Transport.

“This will ensure that road safety is standardised across the country,” he said.

In relation to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the union has also noted the challenges of an eight-hour shift, the non-payment of former employees of Tasima, the ongoing wage negotiations, the demand for double-digit increment, and the finalisation of all secondary issues emanating from 2023/24 wage agreement.

Popcru said the following interventions should be enacted: the employment of more traffic officers; standardised uniform; adequate tools of trade, uniform shift and equalisation of salary.

On synergising the CJC, it said remains concerned about the level fragmentation within the Criminal Justice Cluster, with different departments operating differently while relying on each other’s inputs in conducting their mandated functions.

“It therefore proposed that there is a need to establish synergy between the Department of Correctional Services, the SAPS and the Judiciary, with the SAPS accounting for the arrests made, the Judiciary accounting for the number convictions and prosecutions, while the Department of Correctional Services accounts for the number of incarcerations.

“We believe this will assist in determining consolidated future budgets that should bring about a correlated approach within the CJC instead of the current continued situation wherein every department works blindly, and in isolation of one another.

“We are keen on ensuring that key positions within the Criminal Justice Cluster are filled based on merit and not political patronage, and demand a stringent stance against corruption within the criminal justice system, advocating for transparent and accountable leadership,” Mamabolo said.