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By Zanele Mbengo


Public trust in police hits new low amid Philippi training college scandal

Allegations of theft and corruption at Philippi police college deepen public mistrust in law enforcement, prompting investigations.

Public trust and confidence in police law enforcement have been on a downward trend for close to 15 years, according to Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.

“Year on year, surveys such as Afrobarometer and Statistics SA show on average over the last 15 years public trust and confidence have decreased in the police by about 36%,” he said.

This comes after crime activist Ian Cameron reported the head of the police college in Philippi, Western Cape, was being transferred after alleged misconduct.

Rapport newspaper revealed how senior members associated with the college allegedly emptied the grocery pantry and helped themselves to food purchased for trainees.

Criminal act and theft

Burger described the allegations as a criminal act and theft. He said this had a negative impact on police morale, especially on recruits at the college.

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He said students would be talking among themselves and “will certainly not be impressed” that their groceries were taken unlawfully by members of the training staff.

Burger said as far as police management was concerned, it showed police had been unable to address the causes of the decline in public trust.

“And what happened at Philippi is just further proof of the inability of police management to effectively address the reasons why public trust is on the decline now for such a long time.”

No financial audit since 2018

Cameron pointed out that since 2018, the Philippi police training college had not undergone a single financial audit. Large amounts were allocated annually to training institutions within Saps.

“The amount of money over the last six years pushed through the college, which was not audited, is over R110 million. So it means there’s no way to determine how it was spent.”

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“It’s common knowledge at Philippi college that several staff, administrative and other management members, have bank cards to buy and procure things for the college.

“It’s been reported that senior staff buy personal groceries through the MES fund of the college and take some home. The catering equipment of the college has been used several times for private events and they pocket the money.”

It was reported a driver and the head chef Percy Sereko were being investigated for allegedly using the college’s catering equipment for private events.

A whistle-blower told Rapport the college’s bank statements would be audited to determine if money has been misappropriated.

“Although the statements are incomplete, they can still indicate who has received unnecessary funds,” the source was quoted as saying.

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Public trust in Saps declined

A survey by Afrobarometer indicated popular trust in the Saps had declined by about half over the past 10 years.

“The Saps has been plagued by scandals over the past decade. More than 55% of South Africans believe most officials are involved in corruption. In addition, 36% think “some” officials are corrupt,” the survey found.

Some reported having to pay bribes to get assistance or avoid problems with the police.

Cameron said it was worrying that the only one in the top five members of the college’s management was a police officer and qualified to be in that position.

“The head of finances at the college has no financial background. He used to be a chef,” he claimed.

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“There are people put in positions purely by being friends with the right people or because of political affiliation. There should be no political appointments whatsoever in Saps because it means it becomes a political police service and not a police service for the people.”

Broader systematic issue at Saps

Burger said these allegations were an indication of a broader systematic issue at Saps.

“The number of civil claims paid out by the police over the past 11 years to victims of criminal action and misconduct increased. This is a serious indication of the problems in the police service,” he said.

“While these civil claims are being paid out by the police, which in itself is an acknowledgement that police members are making themselves guilty of serious misconduct and criminal action on a continuous basis.”

Saps spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said the matter was receiving the necessary attention and all allegations were being investigated.

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Crime law misconduct Police theft