EDITORIAL | Arrive at a solution, Cele and co, not a crime scene
Showing face at crime scenes will not fix the rot in the SAPS. What’s needed is funding and robust management
South Africans have become accustomed to Bheki Cele, wide-brimmed hat at the fore, traipsing through crime scenes offering condolences to the families of those who have been killed or brutalised. Most recently he visited the Mthatha central police station after the brutal murder of Namhla Mtwa.
While this gesture might seem like a useful strategy for Cele to foster positive relations between the SAPS and residents, one has to wonder how much more useful it might be for Cele and police leadership to urgently deal with the serious problems plaguing their service. Like many other government departments the SAPS is under strain. It is understaffed and, according to the most recent annual report, has been unable to recruit adequate staff since 2020. The SAPS hoped to enlist 4,500 new members that year, but eventually revised that number down to 3,000. They were meant to be recruited and trained from this year. In addition to this, the compensation and working conditions of those within the service remain less than desirable. Of the more than 100,000 police members, only 38,218 are detectives — the primary agents tasked with ensuring crimes are solved and prosecuted.
Anyone who has attended a magistrate’s court will know that many detectives are extremely overworked and, according to the SAPS’s own records, not paid that well. The 2020/21 annual report reveals that the average annual salary for a detective is R427,000 a year, or R35,583 a month. While this is above the average wage of most South Africans (R24,051), it pales in comparison to the salary Cele walks away with as police minister. Ensuring the recruitment of strong detectives who are properly compensated will go much further in ensuring communities feel their cases will be dealt with timeously and effectively than Cele’s sporadic visits to crime scenes...