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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Crime in Saps: Flawed system or cover-up? Cele’s missing data raises concerns

Concerns arise as the police minister fails to provide data on corrupt and convicted members. Experts question the need for a separate police department without proper oversight.


There is no need for a police minister if the department can’t even provide the numbers of corrupt and convicted members, while most other departments can say how many employees have been suspended, crime experts say.

Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said it was concerning that Minister of Police Bheki Cele could not tell MPs how many police members had been arrested on serious criminal charges over the past four financial years.

Groenewald said police used “a flawed system as an excuse to cover up the extent of the problem”.

MPs from the EFF and Freedom Front Plus wrote to Cele inquiring about the number of officers who were arrested for various crimes.

“It comes down to the fact that there are separate systems for the various divisions and levels in the police force on which the relevant data is stored, but there is no final, reliable database on which all the data is integrated and verified,” Groenewald said.

He said it was unacceptable that the minister did not have a clear idea of the extent of criminality among the service’s members as he did not have access to a comprehensive database that is regularly updated.

“Without access to detailed information, no preventative measures can be put in place to prevent criminality among members or to effectively address problems,” he added.

Groenewald said the public cannot be blamed for increasingly losing faith in a police service run by incompetent persons.

University of Limpopo professor of criminology Jaco Barkhuizen said many criminologists have said before there was no need for a police department.

“If the police department cannot collect their own data, they should be incorporated into the department of justice and correctional services and constitutional development and run by one department that covers all aspects of law enforcement,” he said.

Barkhuizen said it was disconcerting that neither the minister nor the department could give a clear answer.

“One would think the police could track such an important situation. One would think the police had a system in place.”

Barkhuizen said the fact that there was no system to record this should be worrying to every South African.

“We don’t know how many of the police are being discharged and dismissed and were flying under the radar while still employed as police. How can you appoint police budgets for certain actions if we don’t know if the police we have appointed are not those charged,” he asked.

Barkhuizen said it should be asked why this issue was only being addressed now. “Most other state departments can state how many of their workers are on suspension but the police can’t. That is very strange,” he said.

Law expert Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said it seemed that the minister did not carry out proper oversight.

“That’s why they don’t have a clue what’s going on around them,” he said.

Curlewis said the police service was supposed to know exactly not just the number of police members involved in criminal actions, but also the cost to taxpayers and the police service for defending and prosecuting them.

“It’s a concern, because if they don’t know how many policemen are involved, then they don’t know how many police weapons and other apparel of the police are involved,” he said.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesperson Robbie Raburabu said they were not the only entity investigating the police cases.

“Sometimes the police investigate more cases than we do,” he said. Raburabu said the statistics on how many of the service’s members had been convicted should come from the police.

“Our statistics are only a handful compared to how many cases the Hawks and the police do.”

National Prosecuting Authority Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said they did not have a record because their cases were ongoing.

Seboka said Ipid should be able to draw up a report of how many officials have been convicted.