Unabridged speech, Minister of Police Dianne Kohler Barnard, May 6, 2010

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SPEECH BY DIANNE KOHLER BARNARD MP

DA SHADOW MINISTER OF POLICE
6 MAY 2010

On the police budget

Release: immediate

Chair.

I would like to begin this debate by introducing myself to the Minister of Police. I’m doing this because, despite the fact that we’ve debated on numerous occasions, he seems to have all but forgotten that I am the shadow minister of police from the official opposition – a person who has a legitimate oversight duty over what he does, and to whom I put questions which he is obliged to answer. Unlike the committee’s new Chairperson, Cindy Chikunga, for whom I have enormous respect, and shall miss when, if the ANC has the perspicacity, and she is elevated to the Cabinet; the current Minister simply lacks the necessary work ethic.

Our whippery has now had to resort to writing to the Deputy President to point out that the Minister of Police is one of the worst, if not the worst, offenders in the Cabinet in this regard – and currently owes me 23 answers.

When I was first transferred by the DA to this committee, four years ago, one of my more distasteful duties was to inform this country of the fact that the SAPS had squandered R7,7-million on taking 77 individuals to the Caribbean for the Cricket World Cup.

The portfolio committee was simply handed the matter to be rubber stamped. I wouldn’t do it then, and I won’t do it now.

Parliament is not here to rubber stamp your excesses Minister – your stays at the luxurious Table Bay Hotel, or your extensive stay with unknown persons at the Hilton Hotel in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, a province in which you live and have your own home.

The Bloemfontein party was another such excess – at a time when the world markets were crashing, and thousands of South Africans losing their jobs, how appropriate was it, do you think, that you should throw a party at their expense?

Indeed Chair, the Minister might well say that he does do his duty and answers Parliamentary questions. Well, to give but one example of the minister’s evasive attitude, I put through a comprehensive question in relation to the party in Bloemfontein – asking for the total amount budgeted for the party, from whence the funds would come, and what the costs were for transport, accommodation, venue, entertainment, food and beverages, and overtime.

The Minister obviously gave this question due consideration, and after extensive consultation replied:
“The budget for the 2010 National Police Day is covered in the overall budget of the department on a yearly basis”.

I tried again – asking further detailed questions, why officers were forced to attend, what disciplinary ramifications there would be for those who failed to attend, those and three other questions, with several parts to them. The Minister didn’t have to work as hard on this reply. His answer?
“This is National day which is observed every year”.

Your spokesperson said she would tell us the cost before the event, again during the event, and again after the event, and here we are, still waiting.

Well – we’ve waited long enough – today seems appropriate and we’ll await your response.

Minister at last count, on the DA’s Wasteful Expenditure Monitor, you and your deputy had sucked up taxpayer’s money on frivolous stays at five star hotels and on personal pimp-my-ride vehicles to the tune of R7.1-million. Then of course there’s the R130-million private jet that costs R30 000 an hour to fly. It has cost about R13-million to fly you about since it was bought. Minister, SAA could really do with that cash about now.

Minister while you partied, I spent time touring police stations around the country. In Mpumalanga I visited stations that could have done with some of the tens of millions you wasted. Indeed we have some 12 or more stations that have no running water. We know the Police Day party was a logistical nightmare – and we know that the SAPS will never, and should never again ever attempt, to join the hospitality industry.

It is absolutely clear that the National Police Day debacle ought never to be repeated yet the Minister has apparently said that a similar event will be held every year, and the commissioner, predictably, even went as far as to say that “anyone who has a problem [with the National Police Day] must go die.” Well, I have no intention of dying until I have done my full duty to my country in this House and in this job.

The minister’s spokesperson called this party a “morale booster”. It was a morale booster when celebrated annually in each province, at virtually no expense, and with our SAPS members a phone-call away from any provincial emergency. Well – they would be if the phones at our police stations actually worked. A DA survey found that more than a third of the numbers advertised by the SAPS don’t work.

Sad news indeed for the thousands of victims of crime who, failing to get through to their local station, then dial the 10 111 number, only to be placed on hold or hung up on. If they do get through, the police will take, on average, 42 minutes to get to their house…or in the Eastern Cape – six hours.

This sort of expenditure needs to be understood in the context of lost and stolen police case dockets up 57%; sample backlogs at our forensic labs up 105%; compliance with recommendations from the ICD down from 42% to 10% and by the end of last year only 5% of Hawks applicants having been vetted – which at that rate would take seven years for the unit to be fully fledged. Hopefully by now the Hawks spin-doctors have stopped taking credit for the successes of other units of the SAPS.

And it is still called that today, isn’t it? The SAPS? Between the Minister, his Deputy and his National Police Commissioner, confusion reigns. One of the few answers I did receive to one of my questions read:
“The Department of Police is not changing name it retains the name of the South African Police Service also referred to as “the force” for operational energy emphasis”.

Not one person I consulted had any idea what that bizarre statement meant, except that it seemed you’ve now backed down on renaming the Service a “Force” because it dawned on you that you no longer have a two thirds majority in this House to change the Constitution at will – in the same way that your National Police Commissioner is still your National Police Commissioner according to the Constitution.

The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the announcement that former senior officers in the SAPS will be allowed to re-enlist – though certainly many have tried and been turned away; and we welcomed the lifting of the rather bizarre moratorium on the taking on of new reservists – although few of your stations seem aware of the fact that it’s been lifted. It was, nonetheless, an excellent decision and will have significant, positive ramifications in terms of up-skilling the ranks of the Police.

However, the bizarre remilitarisation of the SAPS has been another retrogressive step we could have done without – indeed your own SAPS members of POPCRU have rejected it entirely. I saw the Minister on television saying POPCRU’s concerns have nothing to do with the Police. Really, Minister?

Speaking of absurd, it is absurd that we have to wait until September before we read the crime statistics which will by then be 18 months out of date. On the flip side, the Auditor General’s office has agreed – at my request – to audit the statistics at station level in light of the criminal manipulation of said statistics by crooked station heads.

Chair, we cannot continue to have blue light barbarians stopping a car full of potential German investors and forcing them to erase footage of their cavalcades running civilians off the road. Did anyone here read the headlines in the German newspapers? Minister, have you totally lost control? You’ve known since you assumed this position, that they are a problem, yet their abuse continues unabated.

This appeal to the SAPS members extends past the blue lighters to any of you SAPS members who may have contact with a soccer fan. Remember, the eyes of the world will be on us – relentlessly.

The vast majority of our SAPS members are upstanding, honest men and women one could trust with one’s life. Now is the time to show the world that while there are those amongst you who may be expelled from the SAPS for theft, hijacking, armed robbery and car theft – no, hold on, that was the ANC’s candidate in yesterday’s by election in KwaZulu-Natal – there are those amongst you who will do anything they can to bring the Service into disrepute, and onus is on you to see that they are thrown out of the SAPS and jailed. SAPS members must out the criminals within their ranks, and if you have problems doing that because of victimisation, come to me like so many of your colleagues do and let’s see your bosses try to victimise me.

Yes know that there were over 6000 complaints against members of the SAPS this past year, 2285 of those for criminal activities; and yes we’re watching the squirming of your erstwhile boss, Selebi, as he sits in the dock, and I know that the ANC ignored my calls for years to get rid of the man.

Today there is something I would ask you to ignore. The Ministry has taken a thief-in-the night decision to lower the violent crime reduction targets. You SAPS members were so nearly there – fighting to reach those 7 to 10% levels, and you had almost succeeded. Were you congratulated for that effort? No – instead the Minister has dropped your targets to just 4 to 7%. This in a country where 50 citizens are murdered and 68 raped every day?

The Ministry imagines we in this House should agree to pay it R57-billion to reduce violent crime by less.

SAPS men and women you were so close – so I challenge you to aim for 8% – reach it – and then hit 9% next year. Don’t allow this Ministry to patronise you by lowering your goals to make sure you can reach them, while calling you new names in an attempt to boost your egos. We must go upwards and onwards, and not regress into the past.

Chair, the Minister must provide the South African public with something in exchange for one of the biggest budgets in the Cabinet. It’s currently all flash and no substance, with a National Police Commissioner who says anyone who is a friend of a criminal is a criminal, and yet is himself closely linked to convicted “Prince” Sifiso Zulu – the bling-ridden socialite-cum-convicted felon who drunkenly drove into and killed two civilians and then ran away? His first call after the crash was to his good friend, Bheki Cele.

The Hollywood-style stunts were amusing for a while, but it is time to do the hard yards. We have to beat back the massive sample backlog at the labs and get those cases through court; we have to overhaul the substandard training regime, and we have to stop this ridiculous cadre deployment policy and start putting people in positions who are actually qualified to do the job.

This R57-billion budget is not an ANC slush fund, for parties and cars and hotels – and multi-million rand homes in Pretoria, such as our ever-so-picky National Police Commissioner now enjoys. It is taxpayer’s money they give the Government in the hopes that it will be spent wisely, and for the benefit of all South Africans.

The Minister hid away the damning report on the head of the legal services division, but that failure is a direct result of the ANC’s failed cadre deployment policy. I made the suggestion a year ago that you hire someone who is actually qualified to do the job as our new National Police Commissioner. Instead you chose yet another politician.

Well – we see him on television a lot, and of course he’s on this bottle, but let’s hope he proves to be as transparent as it is. The jury is still out on that one.

Chair, I don’t know if you applied for a gun licence, but as I predicted, the legislation is an expensive failure. One is given a receipt, waits five years, and then gets another receipt, without ever seeing a licence. Police somehow ‘lost’ 2 944 firearms this past year, in the last three years, over seven thousand weapons have been lost or stolen from the SAPS, and so of course they choose to turn and focus on the rest of us.

The SAPS also admitted to me that while they recovered virtually all lost civilian firearms they only recover 15% of lost SAPS firearms. So much for President Zuma’s claim that the country is awash with both civilian and police firearms. It is the lost Police weapons that are in the hands of South Africa’s criminals.

To replace those firearms the Ministry has just spent R16-million on 4 000 new Berettas – yet it looks like we will see record police firearm losses for 2009/10. All of them now in the hands of criminals, with SAPS unwittingly fuelling the illegal arms trade.

Of course what you should be spending the money on is reversing the truly appalling decisions Jackie “Finish and Klaar” Selebi took when he was foist upon the SAPS – and my colleague will speak on the specialised units it is taking you so very long to reconstitute.

The members of those units were treated with contempt, and perhaps the Minister could also answer why it is the SAPS now treats the Independent Complaint Directorate recommendations with equal contempt?

The SAPS used to implement nearly 50% of these recommendations in relation to SAPS members’ criminality, and now in 90% of the cases, they tell the ICD to – what’s the expression? – “go hang”? Is it that protecting the criminals within the ranks is now more of a priority than cleaning up the SAPS? Why do you say one thing on TV yet do another behind the scenes? How is it that there has been a 15% increase in deaths in detention? The record goes to KZN – while under the now Police Commissioner – 258. At least his gung-ho “shoot to kill” rhetoric was toned down a shade once the Police took it a tad too much to heart and shot a hairdresser and a three year old.

When the ICD legislation is finally, finally, ratified, believe me Minister, you’ll never treat them with contempt again. They are there to keep the SAPS straight, as you won’t do it yourself, and believe me, there will not be a loophole the size of a flea for any of your crooked cop members to squirm through.

You failed to protect our borders, as was your mandate, and allowed this to happen. Now the Defence Force has been called back to clean up your mess. I trust the SAPS members at the border posts will be vetted with the Auditor General’s report in mind – that corruption at the borders is endemic, and that false papers are produced faster than Wilber Smith books.

Minister, take time away from the parties, another of which you’re throwing this evening, and think a moment of the two thousand SAPS pensioners still without their pensions for up to three years because of your staff incompetence. They won’t be eating and drinking fine food and wines this evening – but their taxes will paying for them. In exchange, how about giving them their pensions…and while you’re about it, give them back their medical aid some bright spark thought he could arbitrarily remove – it’s already been tried by the SABC and various other institutions, and they lost in court. The precedent is set – so if you haven’t the moral fibre to do the right thing, just think of the crimp the legal costs could put in your high-living lifestyle.

Do you imagine that the Democratic Alliance is going to support this budget?

MEDIA ENQUIRIES:



Dianne Kohler Barnard – 082 823 7047