South African police working at becoming more professional Parliament committee hears


The aftermath of the August 2012 Marikana massacre has seen the SA Police Service (SAPS) undertake a number of initiatives to professionalise the service to prevent a repeat of the event.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police this month heard that capacity building mechanisms including criminal investigative techniques, theory of national security, crowd management, anti-terrorism, anti-piracy and cyber security were undertaken outside South Africa.

This led committee chairman Francois Beukman to ask SAPS management if there was an analysis or objective model of how SAPS decides on foreign training.
“It is based on benchmarks, what is the strategic thrust that informs such an undertaking?” he asked Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, SAPS human resource development divisional commissioner, during a portfolio committee meeting.
“We look at the priorities and challenges we are faced with. We identify a couple of countries and their competencies to learn and benchmark them, out of which we devise our own training course content relevant to our country,” was the response.

The further professionalising of the SAPS comes in the wake of the Marikana tragedy and was also referred to yesterday by President Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation address, although he did not specifically mention Marikana.

Independent researcher David Bruce told the committee the absence of professional orientation as far as the use of force is concerned and a clear policy specifying an obligation to minimise the use of force can be attributed to what happened at Marikana. This he said was due to “the dominance of an authority-based culture as opposed to a values-based culture within SAPS and the absence of meaningful accountability by police for the use of force”.

SAPS endeavours to professionalise its services hinge on its intent to turn its Paarl Police Academy into a fully-fledged university. The academy was established in 1990 for advanced training of police officers. In 1996, it provided the first course in the development of officers. In 2013, initiatives to turn the academy into a fully-fledged university were started. This forms part of a seven-year project between SAPS has and the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Mkwanazi said the objective of developing the academy into a university was meant to “grow our own talent to have a police service that is professionalised and competent to undertake its policing responsibilities with proficiency as referred to in the National Development Plan (NDP). Most of all, we also want to ensure that we teach and maintain the culture of policing in this country”.

This has seen the creation of a Bachelor of Arts in Police Science degree. A curriculum has been finalised and student support needs identified and provided by Unisa and SAPS tutors.

Mkhwanazi also said the SAPA “realised” it has to go out there to acquire skills. This has seen advertisements placed for tutors in English, criminology and sociology.

When properly operational the police university is also expected to add to the national police research capability with high-quality and creative studies that will impact positively on policing.
“A draft research strategy for SAPS has been developed in conjunction with Unisa. This will help to assist SAPS to conduct proper research to improve its operations going forward.”