The ISS says a leadership crisis has been manifested by the ongoing tensions between Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole.
The SA Police Service (Saps) is broken, limping from one crisis to another but the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believes solutions are in the government’s National Development Plan (NDP) adopted in 2012 but bizarrely ignored.
According to ISS research consultant Johan Burger, this all at the expense of victims of crime, including murder, rape and domestic violence yearning for justice.
He said the mess that has become of the detective services, police’s Central Firearm Register (CFR) as well as the Forensic Science Laboratory Services (FSLS) was just part of a bigger crisis in the Saps because of inept leadership, internal squabbles and top cops facing criminal cases.
ALSO READ: Mom fears for mental state of boy shot by police
Burger said the leadership crisis was manifested by the ongoing confrontations between Police Minister Bheki Cele and his national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole.
“In turn, there is tension between [Sitole] and the head of crime intelligence [Peter Jacobs]. Others are facing criminal cases in the courts like former police commissioner [Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane]. The problem with the Saps is that it is facing a range of challenges and problems but the overall cause of all this is at top leadership,” Burger laments.
He said the biggest problem was that people appointed to key positions were unfit for purpose, with the combination of interference and ineptitude leading to the collapse of Saps.
Burger said the Saps was a huge organisation, with a whopping R100 billion annual budget and that, for it to deliver on its constitutional mandate efficient and optimally, it needs best possible people in key positions.
“This is exactly what the NDP is recommending; the appointment of fit and qualified people to key positions, move those who are incompetent to positions where they could do better and run a transparent process in appointing people in key strategic positions. But this is not happening, with the SAS moving from one crisis to the next,” he said.
ALSO READ: Saps fail to account to parliament on DNA testing backlog
Unless this was done, Burger warned, the situation at the Saps divisions like the NFSLS and CFR were the taste of more chaos to come.
Cele this week apologised for the 208,000 DNA samples testing backlog, which has reportedly seen about 139 cases of rape, domestic violence and assault with grievous dismissed for lack of evidence.
But the growing crisis with the DNA backlog and chaotic firearms register have intensified calls for both the police minister and his national commissioner to step down.
TLU SA president Henry Geldenhuys said in January and February, the forensic division had no equipment to process DNA samples and Cele was unaware.
The agricultural union TLU SA said it had petitioned for Cele’s head as early as March because, under his tenure, the firearm registry and the DNA evidence storage system were shut down without an alternative in place.
“How badly must a minister screw up in their position to get fired? How many stolen firearms or service pistols must end up in the hands of criminals before Cele gets the boot? How many farmers, families and farmworkers must live in fear of another attack because the police cannot process DNA evidence?” he asked.
He said the current situation was unacceptable, calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Cele immediately.
On Sunday Portfolio Committee on Police members inspected the CRF as well as the FSLS in Tshwane and were shocked by the inefficient and outdated filing system, with files at the CRF overflowing into corridors.
The CRF still occupies the Veritas Building despite it being disqualified by the Safety Health and Environment (SHE) unit.
Government has announced a number of interventions to address the DNA backlog, improving supply chain processes, procurement of R4.2 million worth of goods, prioritisation of identified cases and the filling of vacant posts.
An additional R250 million has been allocated to the operational baseline budget to address challenges in forensic laboratory services.