Police stationed at the country’s ports of entry are not be immune to prosecution and will not be treated with “kid gloves” if they break the law. “In fact no police officer, irrespective of where they are stationed, is a law unto him or herself,” Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa notes.
Mthethwa in a statement again said the police’s leadership is determined to eradicate any form of corruption, fraud or ill-discipline within the police service.
Police officers stationed at ports of entries include those at harbours, borderline and various entry points adjoining our neighbouring countries, namely Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. In a Parliamentary reply submitted today, Mthethwa pointed out that 44 officers were investigated at ports of entry in the 2009/2010 financial year for various criminal charges and were additionally charged via the South African Police Service internal disciplinary procedures.
“The internal SAPS disciplinary processes are not linked to the criminal processes which are the domain of the courts. However, in seriously tackling the issue of corruption by police officers, the minister has requested that follow-ups be made with the relevant investigation departments for progress and monitoring until finalisation thereof,” his office notes in the statement. He has also tasked the Civilian Secretariat of Police to monitor the cases and provide him with a full report in due course. “By virtue of being stationed at these ports of entries, it does not make these members unique as such we shall continuously keep our oversight on them. They are part of the force and must at all material times conduct themselves in a disciplined and exemplary manner,” Mthethwa says.
He highlighted that some of these officials were dismissed from the service after having been convicted of amongst others corruption, assault, fraud, drug possession, theft and/or murder. “The majority of those cases have been finalised with convictions and in some cases no disciplinary steps could be taken as such members resigned before the case could be finalised. In three cases the members left the force before finalisation and two cases are yet to be finalised. In twenty four cases the members were found guilty during disciplinary hearing and internal sanctions imposed.”
In five cases the internal charges were withdrawn and in four of them, internal proceedings have been temporarily withdrawn but could be reinstituted based on the finalisation of the criminal cases, the police minister continued. The main reason for temporary withdrawal is because witnesses are not traceable after hearings are scheduled, as most of them are foreign nationals. Such alleged occurrences take place at borderlines where either police are in collaborating with these illegal foreign nationals who enter the country or transporting stolen vehicles.
Commenting on whether officials and officers of the SAPS who have been convicted of crimes through the internal disciplinary procedures or courts of law may or may not continue to serve in the SAPS, the Minister said such a condition would be imposed based on various investigative outcomes. “It needs to be noted that a disciplinary process is different and separate from a criminal process. A disciplinary process is in an internal departmental process which leads to work-related sanction and not a criminal record,” he stated.
In line with the tough stance of fighting corruption, the ministry is currently reviewing measures and policies around disciplinary cases. “Plans are afoot to move away from the normal practice of ‘suspension with full pay’ and move towards instigating tougher conditions against those who are being investigated. Clearly we cannot have situations where people continue to receive full pays while on suspension. We must hit them where it hurts most, in the pocket and believe this will send a strong message that crime does not pay,” said the minister.