THE CHANGES IN THE POLICE FORCE
By Sinqobile Mbuyazi
Apartheid’s segregationist laws were not only confined to its citizens and neighbouring Bantustans but they also extended to the workplace.
The police of that time, tasked with enforcing the laws of the state were also subject to the same separatist way of life that existed through the country.
Seniority within the police service was determined by colour when comparing races and many black police officers were paid far less than their white counterparts and were not allowed to even use the same toilet as the white officers.
According to Warrant Officer Gumede in 1988 a proposal was made that all police officers should receive the same salary pay.
“It was a good move at the time,” says Gumede, “But for black police officers being promoted and receiving a salary increase was not common.”
Despite the legislated differences in terms of ranking police officers at the time were being killed at an alarming rate according to Gumede.
“Due to the political unrest at the time, police officers were being killed frequently,” said Gumede, “But we were doing what we could to calm the situation in the country,” he added.
During the transition into democracy the police fraternity was shook by fears that many police would be retrenched but, “the iconic Nelson Mandela was able to bring over into the new system,” said Gumede.
According to Colonel Ndwandwe it was Mandela’s appointment of Steve Tshwete as Commissioner of the police that made things better for black police officers.
“We were all happy because when he took over we benefited a lot,” said Ndwandwe.
Ndwandwe suggested that in his opinion white officers left the force post-apartheid because they feared that black police officers would be revengeful.
Gumede complained about the lack of promotion for long serving officers in the current set up of the SAPS. He said that the criteria used for promotions is questionable.
However he did commend the progress that has been made when it comes to infrastructure.
Warrant Officer Gumede said that he would really be pleased if the next person to be appointed as the police commissioner would be an experienced police official. “Someone who knows all the difficulties that are faced by police officials,” he said.
Constable Nduzi, who has six to seven years of experience said that the good thing about today’s government is that the number of units meant to deal with crime has increased, making combating crime easier.
“There are even specialized units that come after policemen who have committed a crime,” she said.
Nduzi added that the police benefit immensely from structures like the Community Policing Forum (CPF). She is also glad that they are working with the community forums which makes it easier to fight crime.