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Post NEC Media briefing

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) convened a Special National Executive Committee (SNEC) on Wednesday, the 10th of August 2022. The meeting took note of the current developments within the sectors we organise in, the perceived narrative that members therein, especially in the South African Police Service (SAPS) are not serious about service delivery and such other allegations which have further isolated the much-needed good working relations between police and communities.

This meeting also took place just after our provincial structures convened their ordinary Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) meetings, wherein a number of decisions were taken.

The SNEC reflected on the issues below;

• Women’s month

The SNEC noted with disappointment that this year’s women’s month was met by the gruesome, horrific event wherein a group of young women had been brutalised and raped in the Krugersdorp area and many other such cases that happen behind closed doors and never get to be in the public domain.

Not only is Gender Based Violence (GBV) a continuous cancer which is taking the lives of people, and women and children in particular, but it is a pandemic we need to tackle collectively. On our part as a union, we continue to support our gender structures, educating our membership and conducting workshops with the Safer South Africa Foundation and various stakeholders in raising awareness about this scourge.

While we recognise that our society is battling with many socio-economic challenges, our women and children remain the worst affected by GBV and criminality, and often at the hands of those who are expected to care for and protect them.

As we commemorate women during this month, we should all do some introspection and reconsider how we treat our women as a country.

The SNEC further took note of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remarks at the National Women’s Day event held in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, when he said the new laws, namely the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act would empower the police to enter premises without a warrant and, if necessary, arrest a suspect, and that under the new laws, police can also remove dangerous weapons from a suspect and complainants will be able to apply for protection orders online.

Though these are good initiatives, their impact is unlikely to achieve the envisioned outcomes as the very tool to be utilised in realising these goals, the police, are working under strenuous conditions as it is, with austerity measures having reduced the staff complement and worse, the SAPS budget having been cut by billions.

• State of Union

The SNEC reflected on the challenges facing the labour movement in general, and resolved on intensifying its work of building a strong class-conscious union that is united, reaffirming the need to strengthen our resolve to stick to our long-held traditions of worker control, class consciousness and placing service to members at the centre of our overall programme.

The SNEC further reflected on the challenges the different departments are facing, and has noted that the Provincial Traffic has not been appointing new staff complement due to their fragmentation, and that there is no promotion policy.

The SNEC reiterated its call for the nationalisation of traffic, so that we are abled to streamline the functions of all traffic fraternities to fall under the Department of Transport.

The DCS currently has a post-establishment of 39 139, and before 2009, it had 48 000 trained correctional officials.
The officials currently dealing directly with inmates, as at 30 June 2022 are 26 287, and this is a cause for concern as it means more altercations and a deviation from the core function of rehabilitation.

• Escalation of Crime Situation in SA and a Call for a Crime Summit

The crime situation in our country has over the past year increased at an alarming rate, and seems to worsen unabated, and the released crime statistics are a reminder of the devastating impact budget cuts are having on service delivery within the entire criminal justice cluster, even further adversely affecting the police-community ratio.

Our law enforcement agencies are not just struggling with staff shortages, but they are also poorly equipped, and the responses to the past riots and other protest such as those taking place in different areas of our townships also serve not as a problem of police as many observers would like to have it, but as a consequence social dislocation and the socio-economic hardships our people find themselves. It is becoming clearer by the day that under a capitalist system, there can be no social progress.

The very austerity measures by Treasury since 2014 have slowed down the rate of recruitment within the law enforcement agencies, which has been part of the source of this deterioration in safety standards. In the SAPS, this has seen the staff complement decline from 192 000 to 155 000 over a period of 5 years as per the imposed budgetary cuts by Treasury. Of which the number of Police Officers on the street is below 100 000 because the majority senior officers are pushing papers in offices.

As we welcome the 10 000 new recruits who are currently undergoing training at different centres across the country, we are equally concerned that after their training they will be sent to stations which are under-resourced, with inadequate equipment to conduct their work as expected as there is still not enough being done to ensure law enforcement officers have adequate resources to confront the rising crime rates in our country.

The SNEC resolved on a call for an urgent Crime Summit which should among others look into the escalating levels of violent crimes, abuse on women and children, drug trafficking, the rehabilitation of un-used mines as part of challenges facing policing in the country. To achieve this, POPCRU is calling upon on all communities, Police, Criminal Justice, Policing Agencies, Peace and Stability groups, academia as stakeholders that should play a pivotal role in averting a potentially disastrous situation wherein criminality brews unabated.

Combating crime should not solely be seen as a police issue, but needs all stakeholders, especially communities, to come on board and play a role through having good working relations with police. As much as the crime rates such as murder are on an increase, so are the rates of law enforcement officer being killed in correctional centres, while coordinating traffic and while conducting their work.

• Synergy within the Criminal Justice Cluster

The SNEC reflected at length on the fragmentation the criminal justice cluster currently finds itself, with different departments operating differently while relying on each other’s inputs in conducting their mandated functions. It therefore proposed that there is a need to establish synergy between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the SAPS and the Judiciary, with the SAPS accounting for the arrests made, the Judiciary accounting for the number convictions and prosecutions, while the Department of Correctional Services accounts for the number of incarcerations. POPCRU calls for a Judiciary that should operate even during holidays to address a huge backlog of cases.

The SNEC believes this will assist in determining consolidated future budgets that should bring about a correlated approach within the CJC instead of the current continued situation wherein every department works blindly, and in isolation of one another.

• On PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018

The SNEC reflected at length the government’s defaulting on the full implementation of the binding agreement, and on their use of courts to impose their point that disadvantaged Public Servants.

The SNEC concluded that despite the court ruling on the matter, our members continue to be frustrated and demoralised by this refusal by government to implement the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018, especially clauses 3.3 which speaks to salary increases. This has reduced these workers to financial hardships while basic commodities continue to rise on a daily basis.

While this has been the treatment towards public servants who compromised their lives as frontliners over the during the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa endorsed the recommendations submitted by the Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers that all Political Office Bearers should get a 3% salary increase. Therefore, the SNEC resolved to embark on a Programme of Action.

• POPCRU to march to the Union Buildings

The SNEC vehemently rejected the current government offer of 2% salary increase including a grant of a R1000.00.

We have always recognised that talks within boardrooms don’t always yield expected outcomes, and since the platforms which are aimed at facilitating such talks are being undermined.

The SNEC resolved that in defending our hard-won gains, our members within the criminal justice cluster will embark on a March directly to the Commander-In-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa to demand that:
-Public Servants be paid what is owed to them,
-A better salary offer on a baseline that is not less than 10%;
-To attend to all other agreements that are not implemented such as housing scheme for Public Servants,
-Treasury must reverse all austerity measures in the Public Service,
-All vacant positions to be filled and the employment of qualified graduates to beef up the post establishment of the Public Service,
and we further demand that no State-Owned Enterprise must be privitised.
This action will be pursued on many fronts, including lunch time pickets across all Police stations, Correctional Centres, Traffic institutions and everywhere we organise in the country.

If all fails, we will be left with no option but to withdraw our labour.

The march is scheduled to take place on the 20th of September 2022.

Issued by POPCRU on 14/08/2022