By Kotie Geldenhuys
After Mary had suffered yet another blow to the head from her abusive partner, she opened a criminal case against him. At her local police station where her statement was taken a docket was opened for which she received a case number. Mary went home, without knowing that her partner had gone to the police station and paid the investigating officer R1000 to "make the docket disappear". Scenarios like these give the police a bad name and make the community lose faith in them.
Police members have been given extraordinary powers which are, unfortunately, abused by some of them. In July 2019, the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) Africa revealed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is considered the most corrupt institution in the country. Corruption is one of the leading causes of failing public confidence and trust in the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies. Sadly, the perception is that the police organisation is corrupt and not that only certain individuals are corrupt. These bad apples in the organisation must be removed, as they taint the image of the whole organisation.
The question is: what is being done to deal with these rotten apples in the SAPS? Fortunately, it seems that SAPS management have dedicated themselves to tackling corruption internally as they have, among others, established the Integrity Management Section in 2016 (refer to the article published from p 22). They have also re-established the Anti-Corruption Section at the Detective Service in 2014. This Anti-Corruption Section was re-established with the mandate to investigate corruption-related crimes such as fraud, theft, defeating the ends of justice and perjury-related crimes against all police officials. This is done in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004. From past experience and research, it is clear that a dedicated section to tackle police corruption is of the utmost importance.
Brig Petrus Shabalala, the Section Head of the Detective Service: Anti-Corruption, whose job it is to deal with corruption within the SAPS, briefly told Servamus that he was one of the first people to deal with the investigation of corruption within the police environment between 1996 and 2003 while he was working in the North West Province. That was when Brig Stef Grobler was the head of the very successful SAPS Anti-Corruption Unit which was disbanded in 2003. Brig Shabalala became the head of the SAPS Anti-Corruption Section at SAPS Head Office in 2017.
Corruption is a serious problem in the country and is dealt with on various levels. The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) (also known as the Hawks) for example deals with serious corruption and is tasked with big cases relating from information revealed at commissions of enquiry, at other state departments and stemming from irregular tender procedures (refer to the article published in this issue from p 18). The SIU deals with tender procurement (refer to the article published in this issue from p 38). The SAPS Anti-Corruption Section deals with what we can refer to as "general corruption" within the SAPS. Brig Shabalala explained that although the mandate of his section is to investigate corruption within the SAPS, in some cases they occasionally also investigate corrupt metro police department officials, traffic officers and even prosecutors. Some corrupt prosecutors will make sure that an accused is set free on technicalities.
Where does corruption mostly occur?
According to Brig Shabalala, their investigations mainly involve lower-ranking police officials who accept "bribes" from the community. "The Vispol members (patrolling) in the vans and operational detectives who deal with dockets and the community daily, are the ones who are tempted to engage in corrupt activities," he said. However, it is not to say that corruption in the police only occurs on ground-level among the lower ranks. It also occurs among the higher-ranking police members. Yet, one can argue that on this level it is committed in a more professional and organised manner. Brig Shabalala explained that corruption involving police officers in the higher ranks occur mostly in procurement processes when large amounts of money (more than what is supposed to be paid) are approved to be paid to service providers. Corruption also happens during recruitment and appointment processes.
[This is only an extract from an article published in Servamus: December 2019. If you are interested in reading the rest of the article that explores the types of corruption in which police employees are engaged; the ways in which the police deals with the corrupt ones; dealing with false accusations and concludes with telephone numbers and e-mail addresses where police corruption can be reported to the SAPS’s Anti-Corruption Section.]