SOUTH AFRICAN COPS/CRIMINALS?
By: Mbalenhle Zibani
Hundreds of the country’s police officers are convicted criminals, admits the South African Police Service in a two year long audit of criminal convictions.
Africa Check’s latest report show that 1,448 police officers had all been convicted of “serious crimes” ranging from assault, corruption, theft, robbery, house-breaking, drug trafficking, murder and attempted murder to rape and domestic violence. Among those convicted is a major-general, 43 lieutenant-colonels, 84 lieutenants and 716 warrant officers, brigadiers, 21 colonels, 10 majors and 163 captains.
The SAPS has promised to do away with police of this kind by June 2014.
But, whether this is a possibility is a huge doubt because history continues to repeat itself. In recent years South Africa’s police have been hit by a chain of shocking corruption scandals.
In 2010, the national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was later released on medical grounds after serving only 229 days of his sentence.
Is fighting against crime the main aim of the SAPS, if Selebi’s orders that the police’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) must shut down, just seven years after it had begun its work?
The chain of corruption continued. In 2012, President Jacob Zuma fired Bheki Cele over allegations of unlawful property deals. He has not been charged with a crime.And there are allegations against the police’s crime intelligence division, Richard Mdluli, including claims of torture, murder, fake hijackings, obstruction of justice and cover-ups.
According to research done by Julian Rademeyer and Kate Wilkinson, Head of The Governance, Crime and Justice Division at South Africa’s Institute of Security Studies Gareth Newham argues that there is strong evidence that “most police officers involved in criminality are not being held accountable” and therefore that the numbers of police who are involved and have been implicated in crime are far higher than the 1,448 figure.Their research concluded that records suggest that police crimes are higher than what police admit.
Over the weekend Lt-Gen Bethuel Mondli Zuma, was withdrawn by National Commisioner Riah Phiyega eight hours after being appointed. He faces charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, failing to stop at a roadblock and refusing to have a blood alcohol sample taken.
Political reporter for Eyewitness News, Stephen Grootes asked how come the national commissioner was not aware that Lt-Gen Zuma was facing criminal charges.
“If the DA knows things in the SAPS I think the national commissioner should know too, it is her office.”But I think it was very responsible for the national commissioner to immediately dismiss him, after receiving the news,” Stephen Grootes said.
“Most police officers involved in criminality are not being held accountable,” Gareth Newman. They will never be arrested, tried or convicted.
The lack of proper internal anti-corruption structures in the police and the limited resources available to the ICD and now the IPID, mean that many criminals in police uniform escape the net without a trace. They would certainly not be detected by an audit of criminal convictions, states the Africa check report.