A slight but continued improvement in murder, sexual offences and armed robbery rates in the crime statistics, released for the, third quarter of 2020 in November is one of the few positive elements of Police Minister Bheki Cele’s year.
Corruption in the policing of the Covid-19 lockdown and a wave of serious brutality cases — including the murder of disabled Eldorado Park teenager Nathaniel Julies in August, and the subsequent attempt to cover up his killing — helped to expose the systemic corruption, poor training and lack of discipline within the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Likewise, the murder of anti-gang detective Colonel Charl Kinnear outside his Bishop Lavis home after his protection detail had been withdrawn by police management a month before, further exposed the depth of the rot in the SAPS and the failure of Cele to eradicate it.
The top brass of the SAPS has also been placed under the spotlight, with charges laid against several generals over supply-chain-management violations and corruption.
Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts was told by police commissioner Khehla Sitole that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the Hawks were probing 397 corruption cases, involving 257 SAPS members. In September, Corruption Watch found that, based on the number of complaints received, the SAPS was the most corrupt government department for the second consecutive year.
The appointment of General Godfrey Lebeya as head of the Hawks appears to have paid off, with the unit playing a key role in high-profile arrests of politicians and politically connected businesspeople in several prominent corruption cases.
Likewise, progress has finally been made in the investigation into the murder of Orlando Pirates captain Senzo Meyiwa by the Hawks, with suspects appearing in court in October, six years after his death. However, the test of the newfound successes will come when the matters go to trial.
The lengthy battle for control of Ipid finally came to an end with the appointment of Dikeledi Ntlatseng, but the police oversight body continues to battle with capacity because of the political infighting that has hollowed out the institution and other arms of the criminal justice system.
Ntlatseng has since collapsed the centralised national specialised investigation team because of financial and resource constraints, and has begun rebuilding Ipid’s capacity in the provinces.
One positive has been the cabinet’s October approval of the long-overdue SAPS amendment bill premised on recommendations from the Farlam Commission into the Marikana massacre. It includes a ban on the use of automatic weapons for crowd control, new regulations around the use of lethal force, lifestyle audits, and improved vetting of police officers.