On Wednesday, more gasps, sighs and exclamations were heard in parliament than on any other day in quite a while. If social networks are anything to go by, then the public shared pretty much the same reaction when they heard what Lieutenant-General Nkayishane Mazibuko had to say.
Last month, the Democratic Alliance wanted the investigation into the number of criminals within the police force to be fast-tracked. This came after the Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega was reported to have sent a letter to the police ministry regarding employees who have criminal records but are still employed by the South African Police Services.
A lot of jaws dropped when Mazibuko revealed the results of the audit. South Africans are currently being serviced by a police force which employs 1 448 criminals. It is important to note that this figure is not accurate because it only takes into account the period before January 2010. No one can say for sure how many criminals are in the force now but, considering the frequent headlines about police brutality and other types of misconduct, it is safe to assume that the figure is higher this year.
This ridiculously high number includes those officers who have already been convicted and those who are still going through the legal process. Perhaps another thing which packs power in this huge blow to public faith in the police is that the criminal elements are spread across all ranks; all the way to a major general, 10 brigadiers, 21 colonels, 10 majors, 43 lieutenant colonels and 163 captains. The remaining criminals are employed as lieutenants, warrant officers, sergeants and constables while others are in the personnel department.
What has left COPE MP Mluleki George particularly disturbed is that many of the police officers where hired after they were convicted. This is contrary to the conditions of employment in the SAPS. He said: “The issue is if a person is found guilty in a court of law it means he has a criminal record. So why are they keeping you in the service if that’s what your employment criteria says?”
Chairperson of the police committee, Annelize van Wyk raised an important point when she said that it is unacceptable that “1 448 identified criminals must still be paid for another year with taxpayer’s money, must still carry a firearm, and must still wear the blue which should be worn with pride”.
The SAPS is looking at ways to handle this situation. One of those ways is already in force. The offenders have been split into groups of those who had short sentences, those who were found guilty of offences such as murder and rape and lastly, those who were convicted for more than one offence. A Board of Fitness will look at each case and prescribed a suitable course of action.
Many people think that there can be no other solution except to remove these offenders from the force and put systems in place to ensure that criminals have no way of infiltrating the force in future. The DA has previously said that enforcers of the law “should not be criminals themselves”. The SAPS has sought legal advice on dealing with this matter.