Statement: Government welcomes open but constructive criticism in the fight against crime
The Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa in both his capacities as Head of Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Xenophobia and Police portfolio has noted the findings of the African Peer Review Mechanism Monitoring Project (AMP) released yesterday.
The AMP report is titled ‘Implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Views from Civil Society’, and was drafted by the SA Institute of International Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project.
The ministry’s approach in dealing with crime has always been premised around partnerships; whether with society, business, and importantly researchers. Such partnerships are what characterise to some extent our policy development and performance of the SAPS in effectively fighting crime. “To this end, we have openly and upfront encouraged feedback, qualitative research, including constructive criticism. But what we noted from this report, was a doom and gloom picture that was painted on government programmes, and that, can be disturbing at times,” stated the Minister.
With reference to this report, there are four key issues (dealing with Xenophobic violence, Force vs. Service, Review of White Paper and release of Crime Statistics) that the Minister would like to highlight, without being defensive but position government’s stance.
Dealing with Xenophobic violence
Cabinet took a decision to re-establish the IMC because the issue of racial discrimination, whether one brands it Afrophobia, Xenophobia or whatever else, shall not be tolerated by this government. As we speak there are criminals who have been arrested and serving time in jail. These scoundrels were charged with looting, intimidation, inciting violence, committing murder because in the main, such acts are criminal.
There were prophets of doom who peddled negative rumours, threats and anti-foreigner sentiments prior to 2010 FIFA World Cup and we thwarted them head-on. We are noting the emergence of these isolated incidents and government remains unshaken that it shall intensify its law enforcement agencies to deal with this type of criminality.
“As South Africans we know what racism means. We know the criminal damage it caused in our country, from which we still have to recover. A central feature is therefore the fight against xenophobia, sexism and other intolerances. No crime, however, can justify the targeting of particular groups for attack, nor the resort to such criminal acts of violence,” stated Minister Mthethwa.
Some of the proactive measures, in addition to arresting these criminals, the ministry went on extensive programmes to address these tensions, such as engagements with communities, educational and awareness campaigns. We have also begun instituting civic education within our police; which includes respect for human rights and tolerance when dealing with crimes affecting foreign nationals.
Police Force vs. Police Service
The leadership and management of police took a stance of fighting crime and fighting it toughly. To realize this objective there are certain steps we undertook to ensure that we win the war against crime.
Amongst them is the transformation of the police ranks to ensure clear lines of command and control and instil a sense of discipline amongst the members of the force. The basic mission for which police exist is the prevention of crime and disorder. Without a sense of a clear chain of command, field accountability is at risk.
Such transformation should, however, not be viewed in isolation of the other pillars of our strategy, that is, strengthening partnerships with communities, utilizing intelligence as a nerve centre of policing, strengthening the legislative framework of the Independent Complaints Directorate, the Civilian Secretariat for Police and the review of the entire criminal justice system. It is important to emphasise that the change in police ranks was an operational matter and had no Constitutional implications whatsoever. Section 199 (1) of the Constitution talks of a Police Service and Section 207 (1) of the Constitution speaks of the National Commissioner. And, this has remained so.
There has, therefore, never been a desire from anybody to tamper with the policy underpinnings that inform our approach to policing. The issue of how we mobilize, galvanize and instil discipline within our police should not be interpreted to mean or suggest a policy reorientation. Whether the Minister refers to his management as Generals, Brigadiers, Colonels, etc should not be misunderstood to be a militarisation of the police.
Review of the White Paper on Safety and Security
The White Paper on Safety and Security says reducing crime entails more than policing an effective system of criminal justice, and appropriate systems of oversight. Also required is focus on social, environmental and economic issues. Therefore crime control and prevention strategies must be underpinned by complimentary social and economic policies.
“What APRM may not be aware is that at the end of last year, the Minister began with a review of the White Paper, specifically tasking the Secretariat of Police to review this piece of legislation. A lot of ground-work has been done in terms of research, consultations and benchmarking, which we are certain APRM wittingly or unwittingly chose to ignore this,” pointed out the Minister.
Again for the benefit of the public, the preliminary findings will be shared with all MECs for Safety at MINMEC meeting to be held this coming Friday, 1 July in Johannesburg. It is envisaged that in the next three months, a draft will be tabled in Parliament.
Release of the crime statistics
Government took a decision to release crime stats annually and we shall continue to do so. It needs to be understood that releasing crime statistics is something most developed and developing countries do not undertake. We utilise crime statistics on a daily basis for operation purposes and this shall remain as such.
“Crime statistics always give us a sober assessment of the state of crime and how far we have come in making the country safer. We assure South Africans that we shall remain transparent, forthright and open to engagement with society, across all facets of our crime-fighting strategies,” he added.
South Africa, as a signatory of respect for human rights including the right to safety, remains determined to ensure that nobody anywhere should be subjected to the insult by another or others because of his or her race, colour, nationality or origin.