General Kehla Sitole, the national police commissioner, has acknowledged that police corruption has become increasingly topical following the numerous reports of employees’ involvement in criminal activities. In a presentation to parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday 3 (November), the commissioner stated that the wide perception of police corruption negatively undermines the entire policing fraternity.
According to Sitole, institutions such as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI or the Hawks), Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), National Anti-Corruption Unit (Detective Services) and Investigative Directorate (ID) have been established to investigate corrupt activities, including activities by employees of the South African Police Service. He added that 397 cases involving police are currently investigated, with 257 already arrested.
Commissioner Sitole said that as soon as the SAPS is informed of allegations of corrupt activities, the necessary disciplinary proceedings are immediately initiated, The most common types of corruption include contravention of the Disaster Management Act, soliciting bribes, defeating the ends of justice, aiding an escapee, extortion, and fraud. Disciplinary proceedings have been instituted against the employees and some of them have been suspended from service as a precautionary measure. Of the 286 cases reported since 1 April 2020, a total of 216 have been finalised, it said.
546 employees are involved in the 286 cases including 2 Lieutenant Generals, three Major Generals, and 8 Brigadiers.
The 286 cases were further broken down as follows:
High profile cases are cases of high priority which involve senior managers and cases that the management prioritised due to media attention, the SAPS said. As of 1 April 2020 to date, the SAPS said that 79 employees have been involved in these cases and 25 disciplinary proceedings have been finalised.
The SAPS also pointed to specific cases which were currently under investigation:
A report by civil society group Corruption Watch in September found that the SAPS is consistently one of the most complained about institutions in South Africa. For the second consecutive year, this focus area, at 13%, leads in terms of complaints received. “Whistle-blowers express their despondency and consternation with the police service in an assortment of allegations, which principally highlight the brutality, inconsiderateness and inhumanness toward the public, and lack of regard for law and order that officials and officers display.”
Corruption Watch reported that bribery allegations made up 31% of police corruption cases, as officers solicit bribes from suspects and victims of crimes alike, and sometimes from small businesses as well as ordinary members of the public. Demands for bribes are to allow alleged criminals, generally drug dealers, to operate with impunity or to ‘make dockets disappear’.
The report found that small businesses, mostly informal traders, have their goods confiscated only to have them returned should the owners be willing to pay whatever amount of money is demanded. Should a public member wish to remain unbothered and hassle-free, officers allude to the fact that they have the power and means to make a person’s life ‘very difficult’ should they be unwilling to co-operate. Such cases were especially common during the lockdown period, Corruption Watch said.
“We are informed that such sporadic acts of violence occurred when the officers accused persons of not complying with lockdown rules and regulations. Ironically, other abuses of power that the police are said to have committed involve the selling of banned goods, mostly alcohol and cigarettes, and allowing unauthorised businesses to trade during the very same period,” it said.