Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the President's conversation with police station commanders

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Honourable Ministers,
Honourable Premiers and MECs responsible for Community Safety,
Hon Chairperson of the Select and Portfolio Committees of Parliament,
National Police Commissioner, Mr Bheki Cele,
All Commissioners and Directors-General,
Station Commanders from all over the Republic,
Senior Officials,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We pointed out in the State of the Nation address that we would work to achieve a visible improvement in the fight against crime, job creation, health, education as well as rural development and land reform.

Our key message for the next five years, which is "Working together we can do more", captures the manner in which we are going to work to achieve our goals.

To achieve a turnaround in service delivery, we have to harness the expertise, energies and the commitment of all our public servants and managers, who are our most important resource.

In this regard, we have decided to meet with key officials in the priority sectors within the public service.

We met with school principals in Durban in August. We are meeting with police station commissioners today, whom I prefer to call station commanders.

On the 20th of October we will meet with Mayors and municipal managers from all over the Republic. We also intend to meet with health care professionals soon.

In these interactions we send out one message. It is not business as usual for public servants who are in the coalface of service delivery.

Things have to be done differently and more effectively, for us to achieve our goals, and everyone's contribution counts. Working together we can and must do more!

Today we have decided to meet with police station commanders because of their important location in the chain of command within the police service.

The higher echelons of the police service provide strategic policy direction and organisational leadership.
However, the local police station is the everyday face of the police service among our people. People's perceptions of how good or how bad the police are, are based largely on interactions that occur at the local police station.

Therefore, we have to find ways of supporting our station commanders in doing their work.

That is the purpose of today's conversation. We want to hear about the challenges you face. We want to hear about the success stories from some of the police stations, so that we can learn from each other.
We want to hear what kind of political support you require from us, for you to be able to do your jobs effectively.

We expect an open and frank discussion. Every station commander in this meeting has the right to speak and raise his or her opinion. Together we must unite as partners, in taking forward the fight against crime.
As part of our armed security services, our police force carries an enormous responsibility.

The Constitution specifically directs the police force to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law.

The police force is the eyes, ears and shield of the nation.
You will recall that in the State of the Nation address in June this year, we said that we had changed the name of the Ministry from Safety and Security to Police, in order to emphasise that we wanted real operational energy in police work.

This energy should see us reduce serious and violent crimes by the set target of 7% to 10% per annum.
We said that our aim was to establish a transformed, integrated, modernised, properly-resourced and well-managed criminal justice system.

We added that it was also critically important to improve the efficiency of the courts, the performance of prosecutors and to enhance detective, forensic and intelligence services.

Last week the Minister of Police released the national crime statistics. The statistics underscore the correctness of our decision to isolate crime as one of the key five priorities.

The figures demonstrate considerable progress that we have recorded in bringing down the levels of certain types of crime, notably in five of the seven contact crimes as well as in other forms of aggravated robbery.

But most significantly, the statistics remind us that we must work harder to dent the three problematic categories of crime - house and business robberies as well as car hijackings.

These forms of crime tend to invoke feelings of insecurity among South Africans because in most cases, the victims are murdered, permanently maimed or sexually assaulted and are left with permanent emotional scars.

We have moved a step ahead to implement some of the undertakings made in the State of the Nation address, to revamp the criminal justice system.

The SAPS personnel will be increased from one hundred and eighty thousand one hundred and eighty to two hundred and four thousand, eight hundred and sixty over the next three years.

This year alone, the number of detectives will increase by more than 19%.

We do not want criminals to walk free due to inability to provide technical and scientific crime fighting expertise.

We shall increase the capacity of the Forensic Science Laboratories, with an additional funding of R150 million for the 2008-2009 financial year, and a further R50 million per year, in the 2011-2012 financial year.

Minister Mthethwa mentioned other measures in his statement when he released crime statistics last week.

Ministers, Premiers, MECs, Commissioners and commanders,

Much of the work of the police is fraught with danger. Our hearts go out to all families of our men and women who have lost their lives in the service of the nation.

Government will do all in its power to assist the Ministry and the National Commissioner in their efforts to reduce the impact of the dangers that face the police service.

As you are aware, we seek to strengthen the hand of the police in dealing with violent criminals. We intend to finalise amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, with a view to taking the amendments to Parliament soon.

This is a measure aimed specifically at dealing with serious violent crime and dangerous criminals.

It is the duty of the police to protect all people against injury or loss of life. But when their lives or the lives of innocent civilians are threatened, police sometimes have no choice but to use lethal force to defend themselves and others.

However, we are not encouraging a culture of trigger-happy police officers. Our country respects the right to life of all citizens.

We expect our police officers to observe the law and respect the rights of innocent citizens, at all times.

Alongside the proposed amendment to Section 49, we are also in the process of strengthening the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD).

We view the strengthening of the ICD as an important measure to ensure that changes to Section 49 are not abused. Legislation to this effect will be introduced in due course.

The continued incidents of cash in transit heists remain a matter of vital concern to the government. We are engaging the business sector regarding the improvement of standards within the industry.

We said in the State of the Nation Address that we would deal with crimes perpetrated against women and children. We are going to ensure that current measures are vigorously implemented.

We must also clearly strengthen our social crime prevention measures, especially those targeted at children and the youth.

The numbers of children who are in conflict with the law are a cause for concern.

During the 2008/09 financial year, the Department of Social Development assessed forty three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine children who are in trouble with the law.

On average monthly, there are 600 children who are awaiting trial in correctional facilities, who cannot be diverted to alternative centres due to the seriousness of the crimes they are suspected to have committed.

Our goal must be to have efficient early intervention services to prevent children from becoming involved in crime.

The new Child Justice Act provides that the Department of Social Development should provide assessments for all arrested children by probation officers within 48hrs.

We urge station commanders to ensure the speedy processing of cases involving children under the age of 18, assisted by relevant departments including Justice, Social Development and Correctional Services.
We must do everything in our power to protect children from a life of crime.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have set very high targets for ourselves. This means that our police management will have to work much harder.

If a police station is identified as a high crime incidence area and resources are allocated to it, then failure should result in action being taken against its management.

We have set these targets because we have confidence in our police leadership, our police force and our police officers. Most importantly, we have confidence in our police commanders on the ground.

Many of our police officers work with a high level of devotion, selflessness and sacrifice. We want to encourage this work ethic.

Going forward, we urge you to dedicate yourselves to work with us to develop a new culture and ethos within the police service. Let us work towards developing a new kind of police officer.

This new police officer must be committed to serving the public with dedication, commitment, discipline, integrity, hard work and passion.

We urge you to make certain that all the men and women you command are imbued with these tenets if they are to be equal to the task at hand.

We must develop a police officer who is committed to ensuring that our streets and communities are safer. Our entrepreneurs must conduct their businesses without hindrance, fully confident that their security is secured.

In building the new culture of hard work and commitment, we urge you to manage, lead and command your stations in a manner that eradicates all negative influences that will make it impossible to defeat crime.

Absenteeism, laziness and tardiness in the discharge of duties must be a thing of the past. We must also seriously eradicate corruption within the police force.

The legendary loss of dockets, leading to botched cases, should end. Fortunately, with the development of electronic docket and electronic filing systems within the SAPS, which is being undertaken, this type of corruption will be dealt with.

We must also deal with the public complaints that their frantic calls to the emergency line 10 111 go unanswered. They say that they are sometimes told there are no vehicles.

They then claim that they normally see police vehicles parked in places where they shouldn't be, for example in supermarkets, taverns and other shopping or social areas during working hours. I get all these snippets from the Presidential Hotline and from my meetings with the public in various areas.

We must really work hard to turn the image of our police stations around.

We will turn communities into our allies if our police force responds timeously to reports by citizens, of crimes that are about to be or are being committed.

There is no police force that can cover every corner or anticipate every act of wrongdoing. Residents and citizens are better placed to pick up indications of criminal plans and to assess local moods, developments and attitudes.

The police force, communities, and the country broadly, will benefit greatly from strong partnerships.
Compatriots, we trust that at the conclusion of this interaction we will emerge with firmness of purpose to deal a heavy blow to crime, and make our people to be, and to feel safer at home, work or in the streets.
For our part, we will do our best to ensure that you are provided with the resources that will enable you to deliver on our expectations of you.

We have deliberately chosen the current police portfolio leadership. I knew the type of leadership that would give us the operational and strategic energy we need to fight crime.

We have that leadership in the Minister and Deputy Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner.

I would like you to give them your absolute support as they lead us to achieve the targets and goals we have set in the fight against crime.

Working together we must do more to fight crime decisively!

I thank you.