23 August 2023: The first day of the three-day Policing Indaba hosted by the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) kicked off at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg on Wednesday.
The conference aims to address the rising issue of crime in South Africa by bringing together participants from different fields, including academics, researchers, law enforcement agencies, and government departments, to find ideal solutions to the country’s crime situation.
The Policing Indaba was organised by POPCRU after calls for actionable steps to address persistently high crime levels and an alarming surge in police killings. The programme aims to cover important themes including gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide, proactive crime prevention, the training of new police recruits, and building ideal policing and corrections for the 21st century.
POPCRU president, Dr Zizamele Cebekhulu-Makhaza, said that it’s time to take action through research and implementation to find solutions to the problems faced by the police service.
“After these three days, we want to have actionable solutions ready that can be implemented to improve policing and overall law enforcement in South Africa,” he emphasised.
During his opening address, he noted that the important question that the indaba will seek to confront is: “Is the South African police service failing in the fight against crime?”
He stated that the union and its leadership do not claim to have answers, but that he hoped that through collaborative discussions and a research-based approach, the various stakeholders present could find practical and implementable solutions together.
“According to the provisions of the Criminal Procedures Act and other relevant legislation, the operations of the criminal justice cluster require cohesion to be effective. If we fail in this, then South Africa itself is doomed to fail in the fight against crime,” he said.
Attendees and delegates arrived from across South Africa, as well as from neighbouring African countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Lesotho to attend the event. Amongst the many attendees were the Department of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. The discussions were also joined by organisational partners and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
“We are well-placed to contribute to the strategic plan. We are here to support law enforcement, as they cannot be solely responsible for making South Africa safer. Making our country safer is a collaborative effort between organisations, communities, and law enforcement,” added Jeffrey Dladla, POPCRU General Secretary.
COSATU president, Zingiswa Losi, praised POPCRU for showing leadership by organising the Policing Indaba as a step towards addressing the rampant crime. “Crime statistics are painting a depressing picture, especially in the killing of police officers.” She added that South Africa still hasn’t healed from the past, and that the government needs to step in to solve socio-economic issues such as poverty and unemployment to address crime.
In the evening session, Police Minister Bheki Cele joined the programme, stating, “Together, we need to develop a system of leadership. Policy, safety, and the comfort of South Africans cannot be about just arresting criminals; it must go across governance and the whole of society.”
He added that South Africa has made the mistake of implementing “pendulum politics”, responding to the ills of the apartheid regime by being “too easy” on criminals.
“We have made mistakes that we must change,” he emphasised.
“There must be lots of legislative changes, including to the Constitution, and reforms.”
Among the many expert speakers were representatives from the Border Management Authority (BMA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The BMA painted a grim picture of the highly porous nature of the country’s borders, which has exacerbated theft, smuggling, and other illegal activities.
Alarmingly, once a vehicle is reported as stolen or hijacked in South Africa, it can take up to 48 hours to reflect on the border authorities’ systems, giving criminals plenty of time to transport the vehicle across the border, it revealed.
In response to these challenges, the BMA has developed a series of plans that it hopes to roll out over the coming months and years, including heightening oversight and control of the country’s ports and border posts.
Likewise, SAPS figures revealed a dismaying increase in murder statistics over the past decade, as well as a dip in the country’s detection rate from 59.09% in the 2013/14 financial year to 46.02% at the end of the 2022/23 financial year.
However, throughout the various presentations, speeches, and proposed solutions, some common threads emerged. These included the need to work more closely and build trust with communities; to enhance training and resources for law enforcement; to strengthen the country’s borders to cut off the illicit economy; and the need to address the root causes of crime such as poverty and unemployment.
“POPCRU hopes to find real solutions from the input of the various resources that have mobilised through this indaba. We hope that by asking probing questions and driving an evidence and research-based approach to policy, we can truly build future-ready, and highly effective policing and correctional services,” stated Cebekhulu-Makhaza.