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Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) President Thulani Ngwenya has flagged critical issues facing its members over the festive season, urging police and particularly traffic officers to remain vigilant.
Reflecting on the challenges faced in 2023, he first points to the escalating issue of police killings, stressing the severe impact that these murders have on law enforcement and the safety of all South Africans. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has recorded 69 lives lost at the hands of criminals since the beginning of the year.
“This unfolding national crisis has the potential to threaten the entire country’s peace and stability,” he says. “The government must publicly declare war against those who commit this deadly crime, and the current legislation must be amended to classify this barbaric act as treason. A mandatory life sentence for those found guilty must be action as a matter of urgency to effectively bring an end to this plague.”
In 2022, South Africa saw a noticeable uptick in violent crimes between October and December compared to the three months from July to September, as the number of murders rose to 7,555 from 7,004 (a 7.87% increase quarter-on-quarter) while sexual assaults rose to 15,545 from 13,090 (18.75% q-o-q). Likewise, cases of housebreakings, burglaries, and hijackings tend to see a noticeable uptick over the holiday season.
In response, all members of law enforcement should be on their guard against criminals throughout December. “We salute our members for defending our country against criminals, and they must not fear to protect or defend themselves when necessary,” he says.
Blockages in the criminal justice system
The Criminal Justice Cluster (CJC) continues to grapple with several challenges, including inadequate resources, inefficiencies within the criminal justice system, and persistently high crime rates, notes Ngwenya.
“The CJC is overburdened with heavy caseloads and suffers from insufficient financial and human resources. This leads to various inefficiencies, including delays in the administration of justice, and overcrowded Correctional Centres that cannot fulfil their rehabilitative function, subsequently resulting in high rates of recidivism.”
But one of the most critical challenges facing the criminal justice cluster remains a lack of synergy between the different silos or agencies.
Notably, as workers serving on the frontlines of the criminal justice system, police, traffic, and correctional service officers will be working throughout the holidays, while other South Africans are spending time with their families and enjoying the festive seasons.
But despite increased visibility and the diligent efforts of traffic police to apprehend unruly motorists, the efficacy of their efforts is undermined by blockages and a lack of expediency in the Department of Justice.
“Court operations begin stalling in November, with numerous cases deferred until as late as March the following year. This means that traffic offenders and other individuals detained by law enforcement find themselves stuck in our country’s already overcrowded jails, placing a heavy burden on correctional services and delaying the administration of justice,” he explains.
POPCRU has therefore underscored the urgent need for a holistic and coordinated approach across various departments, urging stronger collaborations and systemic reforms to strengthen the fight against crime.
“These delays and the resultant strain on correctional services are unacceptable. The issue of synergy will therefore remain a strategic priority for POPCRU in 2024, and we will be advocating for faster and streamlined court proceedings.”
Fair wages and working conditions
Ngwenya noted that as POPCRU members and the working close have come under increasing financial pressure in 2023, further raising the risk of over-indebtedness in December and January. This follows the erosion of collective bargaining rights and the fiscal austerity measures being implemented at the expense of public servants will feature prominently on the union’s agenda in the coming year, he says.
“Even as we continue to witness how loadshedding seriously undermines the growth potential of the economy and threatens jobs, National Treasury continues with its conservative macroeconomic framework. This saw an emboldened Treasury unilaterally deciding to cancel all vacant posts in the public service, committing itself to privatising some ‘non-strategic’ state assets, and then subsequently refusing to give public service workers decent wage increases.
“It has undermined collective bargaining, including through the use of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). The government has not given the workers any say in deciding the content and direction of the MTBPS by unilaterally implementing below-inflation wage adjustments.”
He further criticised government’s failure to implement the third year of wage increases as laid out by the agreement in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSBC) Resolution 1 of 2018.
The loss on pension growth since the non-implementation of the last leg of the PSCBC Resolution has amounted to an average loss of 10.7%, which will amount to over R1.2 million in 10 years. This means that workers who will be going on pension in 2032 could suffer a reduced pension payout.
“Workers must be ready to intensify campaigns against this onslaught,” he emphasises.
“Our members can also rest assured that POPCRU will be working on their behalf throughout the December period and that we will keep a close eye on government as the employer to ensure that they do not abuse their conditions of service.
Finally, he calls on all South Africans to enjoy the festive season safely, particularly those who may be travelling on the country’s roads.
“As POPCRU, we would like to encourage all households to enjoy the holiday responsibly and without violating the laws of the country. Respect the rules of the road, avoid reckless or criminal behaviour, don’t drink and drive, and stay safe,” he concludes.
Issued by the POPCRU president and the collective