“When a Government collapses, the first thing to go is justice, and there is no justice in this country.”
These words were muttered by a disgruntled opposition MP during a tea break after a presentation from the South African Police Services (SAPS). The Portfolio Committee on Police had just gone through a two hour presentation in which they claimed they had learned nothing new, and they weren’t happy about it. After the break, the tension filled discourse between SAPS and the Committee continued and a feeling of disappointment hung over the meeting as SAPS left quietly to reconsider what they had presented. I’ve had the chance to attend two such meetings between SAPS and the Portfolio Committee on Police and both have ended with a lot of verbal sparring and a disappointed Committee. The meeting which was the most interesting and shocking, was about the Internal Criminal Audit that SAPS had done to determine who in its ranks had a criminal record.
It was found that over 1448 members of SAPS had records and were still in the force – there were audible gasps in the room when this was revealed. How could someone have a criminal record on the force when not having one was part of the application requirements? How could someone, who was a criminal, be given a gun and expected to serve and protect. SAPS gave no solid answers, further fuelling the mix of despair and anger that had filled the room. I have noted, through these meetings, that there is a feeling of mistrust about SAPS. Although SAPS is an institution designed to protect citizens, many feel as though it does the opposite. Many feel SAPS is a place where corruption runs rampant and that it operates outside the laws it governs. However, with over 100 000 SAPS employees, it should not be that this 1448 can sway public opinion and rob those who work hard of deserved credit. Much work needs to be done by SAPS to gain the trust of the public and obtain the legitimacy they should have never lost.
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