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Police to revert to military ranks from April

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it has learnt that the South African Police Service’s return to what it calls “Apartheid-era ranks” will be gazetted on April 1, the start of the new government financial year.

Deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula late last year said he wanted the police service transformed into a paramilitary force, with military ranks and discipline. Former education and water minister Kader Asmal, a long-time human rights activist, criticised the move at the time, sparking a furious public row with Mbalula. "He said we must militarise the police. We spent days and days in 1991 to get away from the idea of a militarised police force. Extraordinary,” Asmal said of the move.

The police adopted its current rank system when it “demilitarised” in 1995, moving from a paramilitary police force to a civilian police service. But Mbalula and his minister Nathi Mthethwa says some of the ranks, such as inspector and superintendent became objects of ridicule and cost the police public respect.

Last month the police said it cost R50 000 to change the name of the Secretariat of Police, a civilian body meant to oversee the police when the safety and security establishment was renamed by President Jacob Zuma last May. The police ministry in answer to a parliamentary question says the secretariat spent R49 451.80 to change its name from “Secretariat for Safety and Security” to “Secretariat of Police”.

The ministry could not say how much it would cost to rename the SAPS from a “service” to a “force”, saying the “matter is still under discussion and no reply/comment can be given until a decision has been taken.” It appears the decision has since been taken, although the police are playing coy with the detail.

DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard says changing the ranks will neither helpi the ight against crime nor restore trust or respect. She says “exerting resources for changing rank and title names, while at the same time lowering our crime reduction targets, speaks volumes about this administration’s real approach to safety.” [See related report]

“Like the now forgotten Shoot-to-Kill policy stunt, efforts at ‘militarising’ the police ranks are attention-diverters,” Kohler Barnard added. “Instead of dealing with the real problems at hand, the SAPS is now bothering itself with rank changes. Right now we should be doing the hard yards, building new forensic science laboratories to get rid of the 23 000 sample backlog, overhauling the Police’s chronically substandard officer training regime, and affecting real change in our Police ranks - the kind of change that would allow us to meet the crime reduction targets that we have set. Wasting our time on rank and title changes is unfathomable.

“The new changes are almost identical to apartheid-era SAP ranks. … This, together with increasing accounts of police brutality and a rise in civilian deaths at the hands of [the police], leaves us with little reason to believe that crimes perpetrated by criminals will go down, and every reason to believe that crimes perpetrated by police officers will go up. The unions have expressed their disapproval of this return to Apartheid-era policing structures, and we do too.”

Mthethwa this week said Cabinet had approved the re-ranking, although that is not evident from recent post-Cabinet media statements. He told Die Burger newspaper the new system was already in effect but would only be formally announced in a few week's time. Changes and promotions must still take place at the operational level, he added. The return of the lieutenant's rank will also create promotion opportunities for inspectors, a rank group that has become over-populated. The minister also noted the return of military ranks will also herald the return of discipline and “command and control”, aspects that “flew out of the window” when the police demilitarised.

 

SAP rank

SAPS rank

“New” rank

Comment

General

Commissioner

General

 

-

Deputy National Commissioner

?

 

Lieutenant General

Deputy Commissioner

Lieutenant General

 

Major General

Assistant Commissioner

Major General

 

Brigadier

Director

Brigadier

 

Colonel

Senior Superintendent

Colonel

 

Lieutenant Colonel

Superintendent

Lieutenant Colonel

 

Major

Superintendent (2nd leg)

Major

 

Captain

Captain

Captain

 

Lieutenant

(merged with captain)

Lieutenant

 

Warrant Officer

Inspector

Warrant Officer

 

Sergeant

Sergeant

Sergeant

 

Lance Sergeant

-

-

Merged with sergeant, circa 1994

Constable

Constable

Constable

 

 












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