• Prevention is key to protecting our homes from fire. In this month’s Community Safety Tips published from p52 in Servamus: September 2021, we share information about the common causes of fire and what you have to do in case of fire.

  • It can be a headache for authorities to identify the bodies of deceased persons. article published from p22 in Servamus: September 2021 provides valuable information on how forensic science and databases can be used in the identification process.

  • With their keen sense of smell, biological body-fluid detection dogs play a vital role at rape and murder crime scenes. Our article published from p18 in Servamus: September 2021 explains their training, work and successes along with their human partners.

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By Kotie Geldenhuys

The relatives of a Pietermaritzburg couple, who were shot dead in their bakkie on Old Greytown Road in March 2021, were angry when a young, close relative discovered a video making rounds on social media platforms showing the grisly scene. The video showed the couple’s bloody bodies, while the vehicle’s engine was still running (Kunene, 2021). A similar situation happened in Ohio when the family of a murder victim showed up at the crime scene after reading about it on a social media platform (Witmire, 2017). Situations like these make it clear that some people do not think about the consequences of when they post crime-related information on social media. Clearly, they do not realise the impact their actions can have on the families of victims or how it can possibly hamper the investigation.

With the ever-changing technological landscape, social media is influencing people’s perceptions of crime, actual criminality and the criminal justice system (Hayes, 2015). In a relatively short period of time, our world has been taken over by social media. With an estimated more than 22 million people in South Africa using social media platforms (Allen, 2021), everybody with a smartphone in hand and access to a social media platform, has the potential of becoming an instant “reporter”.

Be careful with sharing photos of possible perpetrators
Once we are active on social media, we often become part of community groups such as the local neighbourhood watch group or community forum. The majority of these groups are created to bring residents together and help to spread news and information about relevant matters or incidents in the neighbourhood. By sharing valuable and verified information to keep communities safe or vigilant is one thing, but to share photos of suspects or their vehicles’ licence plates on such a group should not be allowed. Revealing a licence plate or encroaching on the privacy of individuals while taking photos is against the law. Often snapshots of CCTV footage of suspected vehicle thieves or housebreakers are distributed via social media. Getting involved in such actions may have severe consequences as such a person may face a possible civil lawsuit or as much as one year’s incarceration as well as a hefty fine. Section 69(2) of the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995 states that "no person may, without the written permission of the national or provincial commissioner, publish a photograph or sketch of a person who is suspected of having committed an offence ...” Section 69(3) stipulates that any person who publishes such a photograph or sketch "shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months”.

Adv Melville Cloete, a senior legal adviser from the Western Cape SAPS stressed: “You are not allowed to publish a picture identifying an alleged suspect in a crime on WhatsApp or on Facebook before this person has appeared before a court of law. The South African Police Service Act strictly forbids this. Members of neighbourhood watches often take pictures of suspects at crime scenes, which you can do, but the moment you send the picture to someone else or post it to a social media platform, it is considered published.” The same applies for sharing pictures of witnesses in criminal cases as it might lead to vigilantism and endanger people’s livelihoods. There is only one exception to the rule and that is when a police official in charge of an investigation gives permission for a certain photo to be published (Cape Town Etc, 2020).

Adv Cloete added: “It can also lead to vigilante action in cases where the person arrested is innocent, but as a result of the published photo, which depicts him (or her) as a criminal, the community takes the law into its own hands. Everyone has the right to a good name and reputation and the person who taints this with defamatory statements, by posting such a photo, can be held liable for damages in civil court.” Numerous complainants have won such cases in recent years. These actions also lead to unlawful arrests and detention resulting in an investigation into the police officials who relied on the information from the community.

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[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: September 2021. If you are interested in reading the rest of the article, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out what you need to do. Other issues that are discussed in this article deal with how social media reporting makes it hard for the police to protect the identities of suspects; how photos of deceased persons are shared; the spreading of fake news and use of social media to instigate violence; and how criminals use social media.]

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Servamus - September 2021

The relatives of a Pietermaritzburg couple, who were shot dead in their bakkie on Old Greytown Road in March 2021, were angry when a young, close relative discovered a video making rounds on social media platforms showing the grisly scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
These days the media is able to cover almost every aspect of the criminal justice system, from the bloody crime scene and the arrest of the perpetrator, to the trial and eventually the sentencing of the perpetrator.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Blood dripping from stairs like waterfalls and maimed bodies; decomposed bodies covered with maggots; small children crying out in pain after being raped by someone they trus-ted; and women with bruised faces and bodies who shamefully try to hide their pain and humiliation are just a few scenarios that police members come across when they are called to a crime scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
One of the most familiar cold cases, which still boggles South Africans’ minds after all these years, is the Gert van Rooyen and Joey Haarhoff case, when at least six young girls mysteriously disappeared in the late 1980s.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2021

Act 7 of 2021 supra appears in English and Afrikaans in Government Gazette No 44650 dated 1 June 2021. It amends the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.
This Act 2 of 2020 is discussed comprehensively in Ask Pollex in Servamus: October 2020.
Read More - S v Josephs 2021(1) SACR 450 (WCC)
Relevant legislation Section 302 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (“the CPA”) provides as follows:
Read More - S v Tiry and Eight Others 2021(1) SACR 349 (SCA)
Factual background The principal complainants in this matter are Sasol and Engen who are producers of petroleum products.

Letters - September 2021

When police members turn 60, they are legally obliged to go on pension. Yet, that does not mean that they are "old".
Pollex noticed the following two letters in the regional newspaper Tyger Burger, dated 2 June 2021, which circulates in the Northern Suburbs in the Cape Peninsula.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.