On Thursday, at the launch of the Free State Province Crime Prevention Strategy, South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega announced that an anti-corruption unit aimed at uprooting fraud and corruption within the SAPS would be launched soon. She said: “If we are to successfully fight crime in the country, we must first get our house in order. We must fight crime with clean hands. We will therefore not shy away from taking action against our own. We will certainly do it with boldness.” According to Phiyega, the unit will start operating this financial year.
Fraud and corruption are believed to be rife within the SAPS. A recent survey showed that the public generally perceives the SAPS to be corrupt. However, it is not only within the SAPS where fraud and corruption are a problem. They are present in all sectors of society and public service. Many public officials are known to accept bribes, e.g. traffic police, licence testing officials, etc. Health practitioners and other professionals are also known to defraud medical aid and insurance companies. An article published on Friday indicates that corruption has become a major culture in South Africa. According to the article, South African citizens “are no longer suprised by it”.
The inception of the SAPS anti-corruption unit is a good move by the government. However, the unit might not significantly reduce fraud and corruption as expected. In the near future it is very likely that there will be corruption within the unit itself. Corruption usually doesn’t emanate from public officials. Society is the main source of corruption. Therefore, as long as law enforcement officials are still in contact with members of society, there will be corruption. The government is very lenient when it comes to prosecuting bribers. Implementing harsher sentences for members of society who induce public officials to commit fraud and corruption is one of the strategies the government should take into consideration.