SAPS ’code of silence’ exposed in minister’s ’alarming’ stats
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CAPE TOWN - Only 50 out of more than 10 000 police officers charged with violent misconduct were suspended over the last nine years.
Police Minister Bheki Cele disclosed this when responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Andrew Whitfield.
Whitfield had asked the minister to provide the number of suspended officers accused of rape, murder and assault pending investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), among others, between 2012/13 and 2020/21.
He also asked whether there were instances where officers were accused and suspended twice during the period.
Cele’s response showed that a total of 10 086 officers were charged with death as a result of police action, rape, assault or torture.
There were only 50 suspensions since 2012. In total, 910 officers were charged with deaths resulting from police action, 282 with rape and 8 894 faced assault charges.
The Eastern Cape led with the highest number of the trio crimes at 2 175 during the period.
The Western Cape came second with 2 057 cases, followed by the Free State at 1 287 and the North West at 1 142.
Cele’s response also showed that Gauteng had 977 officers who were charged, Mpumalanga 708, the North West 619, KwaZulu-Natal 457 and Limpopo 388.
There were an additional 271 officers who were charged in the Crime Intelligence, the Hawks and other divisions that were not linked according to provinces.
The figures showed that 549 officers were charged with death arising from police action, rape and assault in 2012/13 and it increased the following year to 606.
The cases more than doubled to 1 392 in 2014/15 before a significant jump to 2 010 in 2015/16.
This figure, however, dropped to 1 375 in the following year and then fell again in 2017/18 to 864.
But this was short-lived as cases spiked again in 2018/19 to 1 146, and increased again to 1 182 the following year, only to drop to 962 in the year ending March 2021.
Whitfield said the figures were “alarming” and showed how deeply entrenched the code of silence was within SAPS.
He expressed concern that out of more than 10 000 officers charged with misconduct, only 50 in the entire country were suspended.
“The DA is concerned about the police service’s lack of consequence management for offenders within SAPS.
“As you can see, it seems the police basically get a slap on the wrist for any wrongdoing,” Whitfield said.
He said the figures could paint a disappointing picture due to lack of consequence management.
“We would expect SAPS to fully co-operate with the Ipid and not contradict them with their own internal disciplinary processes.
“What we see time and again is that the efforts by the independent police watchdog is subjected to a parallel disciplinary process within SAPS and the outcomes or recommendations are often different,” he said.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the SAPS should work on developing measures which would ensure that the numbers were limited.
“We need to look at the problem in its entirety such as what were the consequences that led to some of these actions,” Mamabolo said.