SAIRR, police spar on “tsotsi cops”


Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called on academics, analysts and researchers to contribute objectively to the fight against crime. The minister’s comments come in light of a research paper by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), titled “Broken Blue Line: The involvement of the South African Police Force in serious and violent crime in South Africa – A research paper by the Unit for Risk Analysis,” released on Monday.

Mthethwa said academics, analysts and researchers had a critical role to play in combating and reducing crime, but their involvement should be free of bias. The SAIRR report alleged that the involvement of police officers in serious and violent crimes was not simply isolated incidents but “fit into a general pattern of allegations that is common across the country”.

The police ministry noted that crime and corruption were societal challenges that cut across all sectors, citing the recent arrests of bogus doctors and the closing down of bogus colleges in the past.
“There has been a concerted drive from this police leadership to fight crime smartly and toughly, which by the way, includes rooting out those tsotsi-cops who may be amongst us. And we have been forthright about this. Whether the SAIRR chooses to deliberately or subjectively ignore this fact, our mission will continue unhindered,” Mthethwa said.

While the contribution of researchers was welcomed, it would serve no purpose if researchers embarked on “misleading campaigns” in order to articulate their findings, he added. “Perhaps an even better approach would have been to come to us, present their findings and together we work towards finding sustainable solutions in fighting crime,” Mthethwa continued. The minister stressed that the 100 cases of police involvement in crimes tabulated from media reports in the SAIRR research were not ignored by police management. Those who were involved were arrested and investigated, and in some instances Independent Complaints Directorate processes were still ongoing.

Mthethwa has in the past urged researchers to assist government with qualitative research not “publicity-seeking rhetoric”. Any credible research must recommend new innovations and ways of doing things. Once research stated the obvious, it created mistrust, the ministry added. “We are not denialists in the fight against crime nor are we turning a blind eye to suggestions, but such must be constructive criticism. We believe there is a war – which by the way has been declared by criminals on law-abiding citizens and that it is only through partnerships with media, civil society, business, youth formations and even credible researchers, that we can win this war,” the minister said.

The SAIRR responded in a statement that the research included a number of policy proposals to assist the police in dealing with the problem. The organisation also welcomed the commitment of the police leadership to “rooting [out] those tsotsi-cops who may be amongst us”. The institute said it would “closely track the police’s performance in this area and will issue a new report in due course.”