Cape Town - The pledge of over R6.6 million by SAPS for the education of deceased police officers’ dependants has been welcomed, but widows and activists have criticised it.
Police announced the pledge as part of the National Police Day celebrations on January 27.
The money was raised by more than 100 golf players from various corporate companies across the country who came together to pledge and raise funds for the SA Police Education Trust Fund (SAPSET), which funds children from Grade R to tertiary level.
To date, the fund has assisted 1 078 children, of whom 54 have graduated and 146 have completed and are in possession of a National Senior Certificate.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said while they acknowledge and welcome these efforts, they are of view that more needs to be done to protect officers.
“While these efforts will go a long way in making a meaningful difference in the lives of the affected children, this commitment has come at a heavy price for most as we continue to learn of countless injuries, while others pay the ultimate price in the service of justice.
“The National Police Day, as much as it is about celebrating the selfless efforts made by these men and women, more often results as a permanent reminder that serving the cause of law enforcement is so much more than just wearing a uniform,” union spokesperson Richard Mamabola said.
Mamabola described police work as dangerous. “It is a dangerous occupation undertaken by dedicated men and women who often end up leaving widowed wives, husbands and orphaned children behind.
“Every day they are thrust into difficult situations and expected to make decisions in seconds.
“It is for this reason that we call for, among others, the killing of police officers to be considered treasonous as it directly undermines the authority of the state,” he said.
Civil rights organisation Action Society also welcomed the pledge but had its own concerns.
The organisation’s director of community safety, Ian Cameron, said their main concern is how to choose which slain member’s child benefits from the fund.
“Surely I would expect every child who has lost their parent in the line of duty receives the support from the SAPS. Every child deserves it because their parent offered their lives in the line of duty.
“SAPS should also look at contributing to the resources of members, because then the police murder stats will also go down,” he said.
Widow Nicolette Kinnear, who lost her husband, Anti-Gang Unit detective Charl Kinnear in 2020, shared the same sentiment and has her own experience with regard to police helping their kids get through their studies.
“My view on this is that SAPS must play open books and explain the process of this funding.
“I remember when my husband was assassinated, it was a Friday. The Saturday I had the national minister in my home promising me that my child’s education will be sorted.
“It wasn't like I was told that it’s an application process, it was offered to me as a definite,” Nicolette said.
She said when the time came she was instead greeted with unwarranted questions.
“I was asked to share my payslip, which I found so unfair, because my kids lost their father due to his work. They were robbed of him. The least they could have done was to help like they said they would.
“After a while the excuses started about the board being dissolved and there not being money, so I started making a way for myself and my son got through his studies without getting a cent,” she said.
She said the journey wasn't easy.
“I had to make arrangements with the institution because I wasn’t going to let my son be turned away from writing exams because of non-payment, but I also had to understand that as an Institution they needed money.
“This is why I would tell the SAPS to clarify to the family of slain cops exactly what the processes are and also make known who qualifies and what allows them to qualify for the fund,” she said.
Human rights activist and crime fighter Zona Morton said the initiative looked good on paper, but whether the funds were going to slain officers' children was questionable.
“In four of the matters of police officers being killed, I have dealt with one widower and three widows, who all have young children and have not received one cent.
“One widow residing in Cape Town even reached out to the minister with no response.
“I also want to know who is auditing this R6 million? So whether it will materialise, I don’t know because promises from the minister Cele and the commissioners very, very seldom materialise. So a pledge is one thing, but honesty and transparency is another,” she said.
Morton further questioned what had happened to the 878 children that the SAPS had helped through the funds.