National Assembly Debate
on Safety and Security by

CAPE TOWN : Thursday 18 May 2000

Madam Speaker 

The Inkatha Freedom Party will be giving its support to the South African Police Service Appropriation Vote this afternoon. But I want to take this opportunity to raise a number of concerns about the way in which money is currently being wasted and put forward some possible solutions, which I hope the Minister will be willing to consider.

Firstly however, let me say that all of us owe a deep debt of gratitude to our police personnel who daily put themselves in the line of fire in order to protect the community. Hundreds of policemen and policewomen lay down their lives each year, in the fight against increasingly ruthless criminals. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others. The whole House, I am sure, extends its condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.

Police equipment

Due to the budget constraints on the SAPS, our police officers are often sent out to confront dangerous criminals with far too few resources at their disposal. There is a huge backlog in equipment required such as police radio’s, vehicles, bulletproof vests and the like. The Department has taken some steps to address these problems but there is still a long, long way to go. We all understand that resources are limited and that whilst we would like to spend far more on policing, we have to live within the existing constraints. That requires us to be far more imaginative than we have hitherto been in maximising the benefit of the scarce resources that we do have.

Outsourcing of vehicle repair and maintenance

I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the very difficult situation we face with regard to police vehicles. Much of the vehicle fleet is old and in bad repair meaning that many vehicles are off the road, causing great difficulties for the police service. Allocation of vehicles is also a problem. You will find some police stations without any operating vehicle at its disposal whilst another station will have many vehicles surplus to its requirements.

The police vehicle repair service is perhaps not the most efficient service in South Africa. We hear regular complaints of long delays in fixing vehicles, of spare parts not being available and maintenance being poor.

It is perhaps time we looked again at how we organise our vehicle repair service. We understand that in the past, the Department did consider outsourcing repair and maintenance of the police vehicle fleet but could not find anyone in the private sector that could take on the job at the right price.

But perhaps we need to come back to this issue now and look again at how we can use private sector expertise to improve the repair and maintenance of our vehicle fleet. I would be grateful if the Minister would be prepared to consider outsourcing of maintenance and repair on a provincial basis. It may be that the national approach to outsourcing has put off some organisations that could not offer a national service but would be able to operate on a provincial basis.

The IFP asks the Minister to look at market testing this idea, to see if provincial outsourcing could provide a better service and prove more cost efficient than the current system.

Building and Maintenance of Police Stations

The construction, maintenance and repair of police stations is another big area of concern. Every member of this House probably has a horror story that they could tell about a police station in their area. There is a huge amount of work to be done in upgrading and repairing existing police stations and building new ones but the work does not seem to be being done.

The Department signed contracts with Public Works back in 1998 for new building projects but these still have not been carried out. Now I don’t want to simply blame Public Works, I know that it is a Department under huge pressure with thousands upon thousands of buildings on its books. There will be no benefit in trying to apportion blame.

What I want to see is a solution because the police station building and repair programme is absolutely vital and cannot continue to be delayed in this manner. It is damaging to operational efficiency and it undermines the morale of our police officers who have to work in such terrible conditions.

We need a new way forward, which will reduce the burden on the Department of Public Works and kick-start the building programme. My Party proposes that, in future, Public Works should continue to have responsibility for maintenance but that new building projects should be let through the relevant Department, in this case obviously the Department of Safety and Security.

This would have twin benefits. First it would relieve Public Works of burdens that they do not have the capacity to carry and would allow them to concentrate on the important job of maintaining buildings. Second it would allow individual Departments to meet their requirements without the bureaucracy of going through the Department of Public Works.

I hope that the Government will consider this proposal seriously because it is clear that we cannot allow the current situation to continue for one moment longer than necessary.

Representivity in the police force

I want to turn now to the issue of representivity within the Police Service. This is a very tricky matter and it is important that we get it right. There is clearly a need for action to redress the injustices of the past but we must do it in such a way that we do not undermine the morale of the force.

We must accept that a significant number of police personnel who came into the police and are protected by the ‘sunset clauses’ negotiated at Kempton Park are functionally illiterate. There are many thousands of such officers who may not be retrenched but are unable to fulfil the requirements of taking a statement or other paperwork. We must look at how best we can utilise these officers through deployment in guarding and other similar roles.

Nevertheless the presence of these officers does impact upon our ability to build a truly representative force and we must recognise that.

We also need to accept that we now have one police service and that the past must be put behind us. There are reports that police officers from the former South African Police are now being discriminated against in affirmative action posts. That is unacceptable. Membership of the old SAP is not a ground for discrimination.

We also note anecdotal reports that POPCRU members are being unfairly advantaged over members of other police unions. If that is taking place it is also unacceptable.

We also know that far too often when posts are advertised in the police service, members of previously disadvantaged groups fail to apply. We must do all we can as leaders to encourage those qualified members of our communities to apply for these posts. Members of the police must know that when a post is vacant they should apply and that no posts are reserved for particular people. Every member has a right to apply and receive a response.

Protection of rural communities

Madam Speaker

The protection of our rural people remains a matter of grave concern to my Party. People in rural areas have traditionally poor access to police services and suffer as a result. Farmers also face a serious security threat, particularly in the provinces of KwaZulu Natal, Northern Province, Free State and others. Farmers and rural people are feeling very vulnerable to crime at the moment and we must do all that we can to reassure them that the Government takes their security extremely seriously.

The latest figures from SAPS show attacks on the residents of farms and smallholdings are escalating at a rate out of proportion to the general increase in crime figures observed in South Africa. This is a very serious matter and we must ensure that the police, rural communities and farmers work closely together to tackle this growing problem.

Every province should be charged with drawing up detailed rural protection plans with the involvement of all stakeholders in order to develop an integrated approach to tackling this threat to the rural areas.

Madam Speaker

There are also other concerns which I must raise with regard to the security situation in KwaZulu Natal. The killing of IFP members is continuing in the province and there appears little progress in arresting the culprits. In addition we have recently witnessed the murder of businessmen in Ulundi, again there appears to be no progress in arresting the culprits. I hope that the SAPS will do all in its power to speed up the process so that the perpetrators can be put safely behind bars and the lives of innocent people secured and protected.

Police Morale

Lastly, I wish to turn to the question of police morale. Morale is very low at the moment and this is having a big effect on the productivity of our police personnel.

The hours that our officers are expected to work, the situations that they are expected to deal with and the constant threat to their lives would sap the morale of even the most highly rewarded person. But our police service is neither highly rewarded nor even properly equipped.

Promotions of qualified officers are held back due to lack of funds. Last year, the police lost their 100% medical aid cover and the budget for overtime simply cannot cope with the actual overtime being worked.

I know that there is no overnight solution to the problems nor any magic wand that can be waved to provide money that does not exist. But if we are to improve morale in the service we must show willing. We must listen to the concerns of the police and we must realise that we cannot treat them as if they were just any other public service workers. They are not. They are the thin blue line between order and anarchy.

In conclusion therefore, I would like to thank our policemen and policewomen for the sterling service that the vast majority of them provide to their community. The IFP toasts their courage and pays tribute to their dedication. 

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