Any form of a budget cut will affect the performance of the police, Police Minister Bheki Cele said.
He was addressing parliament’s portfolio committee on police about the crime statistics for the 2018/2019 financial year, which were revealed last week and showed an increase in contact crime, including murder and gender-based violence.
In August, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole told the Select Committee on Justice and Security that Treasury had recently asked the police to work on a R6 billion budget cut.
Of that figure, R2.7 billion is for the compensation of police members.
After some MPs expressed concern about this during Wednesday’s meeting, Cele said: “Any form of cut of budget will affect the performance of the police.”
Cele said there was no way he could say the police had enough resources.
Sitole said policing was expensive. He used Operation Thunder – the anti-gang operation in the Western Cape – as an example, saying it had cost R90 million so far.
He said there was a shortage of 62,000 police officers for visible policing.
The Hawks also has a shortage of 2,800 investigators.
“With this shortage, they can never be an elite investigative unit,” Sitole said.
There was a shortage of 8,500 officers to do normal investigations.
“This shortage is a reality. We do not expect government to address it at once,” he said.
Sitole said 5,000 new recruits would join the police in December, and that he had signed off on an advertisement to recruit a further 7,000.
He had also issued an instruction for a maximum reservist call-up and the police were looking into contracting former senior investigators.
One of the trends the crime statistics have shown is that most crime happens over weekends.
Sitole said the problem was deployment.
Because of the shortage of officers, they were deployed to the hotspots, leaving other areas open.
“Criminals are aware of that,” he added.
On crime over weekends, and the influence of alcohol, teetotaller Cele said: “Shebeens are centres of death.”
Cele said they were also trying to understand why the number of murders dropped annually until 2010/2011, but in 2012 “took off like a Concorde”.
At the start of the meeting, committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the crime statistics released last week had been met with widespread criticism.
“I think this is a just criticism,” she said.
“We need to see a response.”
Several MPs called for a “bosberaad” – a meeting of several government departments to address crime holistically.