SAPS restructuring amid budget cuts and other challenges


The South African Police Service (SAPS) has outlined a long list of challenges to Parliament, including budget cuts, civil unrest, corruption and attacks on police stations, and its efforts to restructure.

Budget reductions, compensation and personnel reductions, freezing salary increases, corruption, emerging violent threats and increasing civil unrest spell hard times for South Africa’s police. These challenges provide rationale for the SAPS seeking to go through a restructuring phase that is now in the process of receiving recommendations by the National Commissioner.

In an effort to eradicate corruption and criminality within senior management, a total of 12 senior managers have been dismissed following departmental investigations from April 2016 to late June of this year, Parliament heard late last month. Three Lieutenant Generals were dismissed and one dishonourably discharged. Six Major Generals were dismissed and one dishonourably discharged.

The SAPS recognises it has a top-heavy, inflated organisational structure. A restructuring process taking place seeks to bring more resources to the lower levels, particularly police stations.

The budget of the SAPS has been cut by R11.8 billion to R96.3 billion in the 2021/22 financial year, meaning certain operations and vacancies will be prioritised.

Filling of critical vacancies, enlistment of new recruits, establishment of specialised units and grade progression agreements will be done according to available funds. Only the filling of critical vacancies and specialised capacities, such as Anti-Gang, Taxi-violence and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units will be prioritised.

An increased demand for the establishment of specialised policing capabilities due to emerging threats such as taxi-violence, illegal mining, gangsterism and organised crime and widespread public unrest will be prioritised, according to the presentation.

The police to citizen ratio is also a challenge, and currently stands at one policeman to 327 people. The SAPS has lost 32 662 through natural attrition from 2016/2017 to 2020/2021 and employed 20 959, representing an overall loss of 11 703 members. Over the last five years, 2 825 employees exited the SAPS through early retirement. Common reasons for members exiting the SAPS are age (60 years), ill health, death (natural, on and off duty), better renumeration and personal reasons.

The SAPS highlighted serious new challenges to safety and security. To date there have been ten attacks on police stations since the beginning of 2019, with half of the attacks in the Eastern Cape. There have also been just under 100 SAPS members murdered while on duty since 2018. In response to this, the SAPS has prioritised police safety, and additional funding has been allocated at police stations for CCTV cameras, perimeter fencing and lights, lockable gates, secure entrances to buildings and ensuring minimum staffing requirements at frontline offices, including sufficient contingency allowances.

Other government departments seem to be letting the SAPS down as the National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and State Information Technology Agency were listed as ‘challenges to organisational stability’. Inadequate service delivery by these two departments, “Results in the over-extension of the SAPS’s operational obligation, which diverts resources away from policing functions.”

Crime’s socio-economic factors such as extremely high rates of unemployment (particularly amongst the youth), poor environmental design and substance abuse in certain crimes (gender-based violence and femicide) were mentioned. “The Numbeo 2021 Crime Index rates South Africa as the third most dangerous country in the world to live in, with six cities (Pretoria, Durban, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, Gqeberha and Cape Town) featuring in the top 20 most dangerous cities, globally.” noted the presentation.

In concluding on the challenges the SAPS faces, the presentation said that it may be perceived that the action taken to address corruption indicates instability, but it is having a positive effect in stabilising the leadership of the SAPS and the organisation as a whole. Lastly, the SAPS said it should be better resourced to respond to the increasing policing demand.