South Africa will embark on a major police recruitment drive and introduce several other measures in response to the violence and social unrest experienced in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021.
In his state of the nation address on Thursday evening (10 February), president Cyril Ramaphosa cited a panel report on the unrest, published this week, which showed that several government bodies had failed in their duty to identify threats within the republic and keep members of the public safe.
“The report concludes that government’s initial handling of the July 2021 events was inept, police operational planning was poor, there was poor coordination between the state security and intelligence services, and police are not always in the communities they serve,” he said.
“The expert panel said that if the violence has exposed anything it was the poverty and inequality that is the root cause of the desperation of the people of South Africa.”
In response to the report, Ramaphosa said that government will make resources available to recruit and train an additional 12,000 new police personnel to ensure that the SAPS urgently gets the capacity it needs.
Another area of immediate attention will be the re-establishment of community policing forums to improve relations and coordination between local police and residents of the areas they serve, he said.
The country has about 182,000 police officers – 18,000 fewer than in 2010 – despite the size of the population having jumped by a fifth to 60 million, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele. Plans to recruit 14,000 officers in 2020 and 2021 were upended by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t trained people for the last two years because of Covid, but also we don’t have a budget for the growth,” Cele said in a January interview. “Policing is a labour-intensive activity. It needs more warm bodies.”
On average, more than 60 people are murdered each day in South Africa, and rampant criminality has been cited as a major deterrent to investment. The security forces’ shortcomings were put on stark display in July last year, when it took them a week to quell riots that claimed 354 lives and saw thousands of business being looted.
Despite this, about R4 billion of the R106.6 billion that the National Treasury allocated for policing in the year through March last year went unspent.
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