All Eyes on You: ANC Election Promises, Integrity and the SAPS

8th July 2009 By: ISS, Institute for Security Studies

When former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel delivered his 2008 budget speech, he said that over R10 billion would be set aside for the strengthening of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and judiciary. The allocation was for the three year period from 2009 to 2011. Furthermore, he stated that the police workforce would be boosted in numbers, from 163 000 police officers in 2006/2007 to 200 000 by March 2011. The minister said that 40 new police stations would be built. He also reported that the budget of the Ministry of Safety and Security (since renamed the Ministry of Police) was set to increase from R40 billion in 2008/2009 to R49.3 billion by 2010/2011. All of this suggests a massive injection of finance and energy into the country's police service.

On numerous occasions, in the months prior to the 2009 elections, former President Kgalema Motlanthe reiterated the commitment that the ANC government had, and would continue to show in its next term, to fighting the widespread scourge of corruption in all sectors of government and the public service. The SAPS - possibly the largest organ of the public service - is mandated to investigate corruption, amongst other crime, but is more fallible to it (on a broad scale) than any other department. As a result, the SAPS is often viewed by the public with significant mistrust. This image has not served the SAPS in the best light in terms of how members of the public and many civil society groups view and relate to it. This was recently indicated by a 1 July Independent Online poll which asked the question ‘Do you trust the police?' The survey elicited 1724 responses 87% of whom replied ‘no'. This negativity comes amongst recent allegations of police manipulated crime statistics leveled against some SAPS stations in recent weeks. But these negative views are not new. A 2006 Afrobarometer survey based on a nationally representative sample suggested that 50% of South Africans have ‘little to no' trust in the police. Ultimately these negative perceptions challenge the image of integrity with which the SAPS would like to be seen.

All this said, while the ANC plans to bolster SAPS numbers and resources and clamp down on corruption in the civil service, it stands to be seen how the Ministry of Police hopes to tackle the problem of corruption within its ranks. A problem such as this cannot be addressed in isolation of other organizational problems, in the same way that members engaged in corruption cannot be looked at in isolation of the environment in which they work. Once an organization (public or private) is faced with a problems such as severe integrity violations or corruption, it needs to reflect on its structure and systems, probe its employees to learn what is working and what is not, and if possible reintegrate the so called ‘rotten eggs" by addressing their needs at work. This positive approach should be balanced with the negative - making them aware of the serious consequences of their corrupt actions. As suggested by the most recent Auditor-General's report, the leadership and management within SAPS has been ineffective.

In light of fighting crime and corruption the ANC highlighted in its election manifesto that government would deliver on the promise to ‘overhaul the criminal justice system' (CJS) and stamp out corruption. The CJS would become more ‘modernized, efficient and transformed' with an enhanced ability to fight crime. The fight against corruption is a fight that all sectors of society will have to participate in, the ANC has said. The SAPS capacity to contribute an effective CJS will be made stronger through ‘recruitment, rigorous training, better remuneration, equipping and increasing the capacity of the Detective Services, forensics, prosecution, judicial services and crime intelligence'. Mention should also be made of the new Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) headed by Anwar Dramat and formally launched on 6 July. DPCI, it is envisioned, will be dedicated to investigating, combating and preventing ‘national priority offences, in particular serious organized crime, serious commercial crime and serious corruption'. The new unit is governed by the South African Police Service Amendment Act 57 of 2008, and under sub-section 17E (1)-(8), much emphasis has been placed on the integrity with which this unit will operate. Although some hope may be vested in this unit to address possible high-level corruption in the SAPS, it cannot be expected to effectively tackle the pettier, everyday forms of corruption that so often do the most damage to the SAPS image.

In his State of The Nation Address of 3 June 2009, President Jacob Zuma outlined the government's strategic plan for the next five years in what he called the Medium Term Strategic Framework based on ten priority areas, where he once again re-iterated the plans that the ANC government highlighted in their 2009 manifesto.

1. To explain the name change from the Department of Safety and Security to the Department of Police, and to appease public speculation as to what this change meant, President Zuma stated that it was "to emphasize that we want real operational energy in police work".

Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Police, highlighted in his budget vote speech delivered on 1 July 2009, that the Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan developed by the SAPS was aimed at educating the employees and the public ‘about the nature and consequences of corruption' and that there would be an assessment of the ‘continued effectiveness of the Plan'. In the same breath, his Deputy Fikile Mbalula added in his own budget speech that corrupt police officers would not be tolerated. Whether the name had been changed or not, whether there is an increase in the numbers of police or not, one thing still remains, the South African Police Service needs to pay serious attention to curbing corruption within the organization. Further tainting of its reputation and image will not be easy to improve. Members of this organization need to live up to the code of conduct that guides their conduct and the work that they do, a code of conduct which emphasizes among other things upholding high standards of integrity. However, the SAPS functions under the guidance of the ruling party, the African National Congress. It is too early to tell whether the vigour with which the ANC government hopes to revitalize the SAPS will mean anything different to those policing on the ground, pushed and nudged by organizational factors, ever closer to committing integrity violations.

In his budget speech Mbalula was correct in pointing out that, in order to build and maintain the relationship of trust between society and the police, the police would need to refrain from situations that will get in the way of destroying that trust. South African society needs to be re-assured of the role and purpose of the police. Members of the SAPS also need to remain dedicated to the principles of the profession they have chosen, and carry out their jobs in the most exemplary manner possible. It is up to the rest of us to keep our eyes and ears open, and to ensure that the ANC and SAPS hold true to their promises.

By: Thokozile Mtsolongo, Research Intern, Crime, Justice and Politics Programme, ISS Pretoria Office