The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) finds it extremely enraging the consequent attacks and robberies at police stations, with the latest victim being the Tsineng Police Station in the Northern Cape Province.
It is reported that at around 21h40 last night, three unknown male suspects entered the station, jumped over the counter and pointed a firearm at the officer on duty, demanding that she hands over all available firearms and the keys to the safe. These suspects took with them three R5 rifles with two magazines and 37 rounds of ammunition, two 12bore pump actions with 103 rounds of ammunition, eight 9mm pistols with five magazines and 98 rounds of ammunition.
The female officer was then tied with cables and her cell phone stolen as well.
This brazen attack takes place at a time when many criminal elements have become aware of the many underlying challenges faced by many of our police stations within rural and to township areas, including understaffing and the shortages of sufficient resources in servicing members of the community, therefore resulting in fuelled and inconvenient relations between these important stakeholders in creating peace and stability.
At the time of this unfortunate robbery, only two officers were on duty, with one of them having gone out to patrol, and the other being stationed at the station.
It is particularly concerning that for an area with a population of 23 000 residents with 43 villages, the station only has two police officers responsible for providing services to its residents. This not only places these officers’ lives at risk, but also further generates the misinformed narrative that our men and women in blue are intentionally failing to address the crime situation within their communities, while in reality, their incapacity is due to the uneven allocation of resources.
There have been similar incidents, both in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape Provinces in the recent past, demonstrating that despite the historical role of police stations being safe havens; they are now becoming unsafe territories for both officers and community members.
This has unfairly led to police being totally blamed for failing to service communities without characterising their deteriorating working conditions.
The SAPS’s expenditure has been reduced at an average annual rate of 0,8%, and this will surely have a negative impact in the roles and responsibilities it is supposed to play in maintaining peace and stability. The recent budget cuts by the Finance Ministry, amounting to R11, 8 billion for the 2021/22 financial years, and the sudden reactionary extra funding of R250 million by the Minister of Finance during the past week can only be termed as a travesty to policing in the country.
It should be pointed out that police too are human, family men and women whom on a daily basis leave the comfort of their homes without any guarantees of coming back home alive; all with the aim of keeping South Africans safe.
These attacks are also largely remnants of an increasingly unequal society, with growing unemployment, yet with a growing economy that has demonstrated to benefit a small percentage of the population.
Under such circumstances, there has been a heavy reliance on policing as a way of curbing criminal activities that have marred our country, and this has proven to be a heavy burden not only on police, but on the fight against crime since they are under-resourced and limited, with our correctional centres overcrowded and a rate of over 85% of those released reoffending due to the lack of skills and job opportunities to sustain themselves.
POPCRU’s long-held calls for the restructuring of the SAPS intended to address a duplication of functions, weak command and control, and poor service delivery at police station level. For us, the process of restructuring is informed by the need to improve conditions for the service provided, with its goals being to ensure improved productivity and morale, increased organisational effectiveness and efficiency.
We believe that through these fundamentals, the improvement and functioning of different components can easily complement each other in the best interest of serving our people.
In the immediate, the SAPS needs to address the uneven allocation of resources, so as to ensure rural and township police stations are well resourced and capacitated to improve on service delivery to surrounding communities. This will also go a long way in changing the current perceptions around the role of policing.
There is an urgent need to build the number of required police stations and capacitate them with requisite human and other resources in line with the determined ratios.
The SAPS needs to strengthen police stations that lack resources and ensure they are led by competitive managers. This will enhance effective policing in line with the prescribed ratios.
It is through the restructuring of the SAPS that we can find long-term solutions in curbing the internal challenges that have for years hindered on service delivery, and by addressing these, we will be better placed in ensuring heinous crimes such as police killings are curbed and the establishment of good working relations with our communities are enforced.
We call upon political leaders and public figures to resist the temptation of trying to please their followers through the use of insults on police, but rather to urge social partnerships in confronting whatever griefs they might have. After all, policing isn’t solely police the issue, but a collective societal matter.
Let us work together as communities in exposing all forms of corrupt and criminal elements in reclaiming our society.
Issued by POPCRU on 01/08/2021
For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349