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Remarks by the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP at the commemoration of the SAPS Centenary
Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, Western Cape
22 November 2013

Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Makhotso Sotyu;
All MECs responsible for policing present;
National Commissioner of Police, General Riah Phiyega;
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Annelise Van Wyk;
Members of Parliament present;
All SAPS Deputy National Commissioners;
All SAPS Provincial Commissioners;
All SAPS Divisional Commissioners;
Heads of Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Civilian Secretariat for Police and Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA);
Leaders from different Inter-Faith denominations present;
Leaders from Business and Civic Organizations present;
Representatives from labour unions, POPCRU and SAPU;
Representatives from various Community Policing Forums;
Community of Athlone and surrounding areas;
Distinguished Guests;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Our fundamental point of departure is that South Africans have it in their power, as a people and as part of progressive humankind, to continually change an environment in which they operate in the interest of a better and thriving future.

Today’s occasion, the commemoration of the Centenary (100 years) of the South African Police Service is demonstrative of this ability to continually change an environment, from the worse to the better.

It is a fact of history that policing in South Africa was traditionally highly centralized with total disregard of human rights and authoritarian. While these characteristics ensured that police were effective under apartheid in controlling the political opponents of the government, it meant that they were poorly-equipped for crime control and prevention in the new democracy.

Under the apartheid rule, the police force lacked legitimacy and functioned as an instrument of control rather than as a police service dedicated to ensuring the safety of all citizens. For example, police presences in townships were used to anticipate and respond to collective challenges to apartheid. In transforming the SAPS we needed to be real about what was working and what was not.

In the past, national security was pursued primarily through military and paramilitary means. The effects of this approach to security were evident in that we experienced high levels of violence and crime, economic decline, destabilization and perpetual insecurity throughout the sub-continent.

In 1994 we ushered a new dawn for our country. The Constitution of the Republic as adopted in 1996, boldly stated the aspects of recognising our inherent negative past however paving a way for a democratic future.

Following its adoption, an immediate task that confronted us was to create a just and democratic society that would sweep away the centuries-old legacy of colonial conquest. The first step was to abolish all laws imposing racial oppression and discrimination.

The Constitution in this regard would become the foundation upon which we build and cement our democracy. The Constitution would therefore serve to promote the habits of non-racial and non-sexist thinking, the practice of anti-racist behaviour as well as the acquisition of genuinely-shared patriotic consciousness.

The Constitution therefore gave firm protection to the fundamental human rights of all citizens. It outlined the rights of all citizens, equally by stating that there shall be equal rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, colour, sex or creed. In addition, it requires the entrenching of equal cultural, linguistic and religious rights for all.

Allow me to borrow from one of Africa’s iconic leaders, the former Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation, His Excellency Kofi Annan, who wrote the following about the necessity of protecting the rule of law and access to justice:

“The United Nations has learned that the rule of law is not a luxury and that justice is not a side issue. We have seen people lose faith in a peace process when they do not feel safe from crime.

We have seen that without a credible machinery to enforce the law and resolve disputes, people resorted to violence and illegal means. And we have seen that elections held when the rule of law is too fragile seldom lead to lasting democratic governance.

We have learned that the rule of law delayed is lasting peace denied, and that justice is a handmaiden of true peace. We must take a comprehensive approach to Justice and the Rule of Law. It should encompass the entire criminal justice chain, not only police, but lawyers, prosecutors, judges and prison officers, as well as many issues beyond the criminal justice system. But a ‘one-size-fits-all’ does not work.”

We are quoting extensively from the Constitution of the Republic on this important Centenary of the SAPS because as we continue with our transformation agenda, the Constitution should and must remain the catalyst of our policing foundation.

As Government we remain committed and will continue to instill various principles which underpin a new approach to security in a democratic South Africa. Firstly, that both national security and personal security must be advanced through efforts to meet the social, economic and cultural needs of society. We also have a duty to ensure that all security institutions including the SAPS reflect the national and gender composition of the South African society.

To give impetus to such undertakings, we have consistently emphasised that police must be seen and see themselves, as the guardians of human rights generally in line with the Constitutional ethos. On this occasion we charge all patriots of the SAPS that:

  1. The police must respect human dignity, uphold and protect human rights.
  2. The police service must be established on the ethics of public service and not view themselves as the 'masters' of the public.
  3. Policing resources must be fairly distributed to all communities particularly those which have been neglected under apartheid.
  4. The police must be subject to an independent complaints and investigation body to ensure that there is no corruption or bias.
  5. Community-policing, a strategic anchor of our policing philosophy is a fundamental principle because it is premised along a view that it is not the police alone who combat and prevent crime. It is the community who are largely responsible for criminal prosecutions. They lay charges, make statements, testify in court and assist the police in the performance of their functions. Without this co-operation no police service can discharge its duties.
  6. Policing must be visible. The reason for promoting a visible police service is simply that the police must maintain a good working and symbiotic relationship with the communities they serve.
  7. Police resources should be directed at preventative policing rather than after-the-crime or 'fire-brigade' policing. Such policing requires an increased level of community co-operation and information.
  8. Policing must be seen as a professional activity. In line with this emphasis there should be better training of police men and women.
  9. Policing must be seen as a civilian service. This concept involves the subordination of policing to civilian values as well as emphasising the ethics of public service.

All Governments worldwide have a duty to provide a minimum of community safety and personal security. The citizens are the consumers of this service and have a right to demand that the quality of this service meets their satisfaction. This said, we must accept that in accordance with contemporary policing practice, policing is most effective where it enjoys the support of the community.

Since 1994, we have been making steady progress in the fight against crime. This period has been characterized by growing unity in action against crime, a period focused on improving life conditions for all, especially the poor. This journey is reflected as follows:

  • In 1972 women were allowed to enlist for the first time on the same basis as men into the South African Police.
  • In 1984 there were 842 police stations in South Africa.
  • 1n 1984 the South African Police had 44 696 members of which more than half, 23 206 were from the white population. The rest of the population groups made up the other 21 490.
  • In 1985 we had 1.4 police officers for every 1 000 members of the population.
  • In 1986 the South African Police consisted out of a uniform branch, a detective branch and security branches with no crime prevention arm. The South African Police was a semi-military organization.
  • After 1995 the previous 11 agencies (the South African Police and the 10 homeland agencies) and non– statutory forces were rationalized and incorporated into the new South African Police Service.
  • In 2000 8, 36% of officials were female; today we stand at 20, 38%.
  • Our police service made significant gains in gender equality; today we can celebrate five female pilots in the SAPS Air Wing, three female operators in the Special Task Force, 29 female forensic science analysts and 14 female Bomb technicians in the Explosive unit.
  • In 1984 there were a mere 848 police stations in South Africa and in 2013 we have increased this number to 1 133 police stations across South Africa.
  • In 1985 the ratio between police and population was 1, 4 per 1 000; today the ratio is 1 operational police officer per 303 members of the public. This is one of the best ratios in the world today.
  • In July 2012, we opened one of the world’s leading a state-of-the-art forensic science laboratory in Plattekloof, Western Cape as part of our improvement and capacity drive on investigations.
  • A total number of 119 police stations have been newly constructed and completed from 1994 to date.
  • Today, the SAPS is being led by a first female National Commissioner.

For the next 100 years, we have a duty to ensure that we continue to improve on the recruitment of current generations and generations to come; so that we pave a path of a police service that can protect its citizens within the democratic prescripts.

For the next 100 years, we need to strengthen our internal accountability mechanisms at all levels including improved internal assessments. We have a duty to ensure that focus sparely on leadership skills and development within SAPS.

For the next 100 years, we have a duty to expose amongst us those who continue to shame the good image of the SAPS through their devious acts. This is important not only in sending a message to police on the ground but also ensure ensuring that actions have consequences.

For the next 100 years, as South Africans we must, together help to solve all problems that serve to slow down the progress of social transformation project. We must provide a clear perspective of where we go from here and translate that perspective into a practical programme of action.

For the next 100 years, all South Africans, mobilized around a clear vision of the kind of society we wish to become should act in partnership; with each sector contributing to the realization of the common good.

For the next 100 years, Government will continue to mobilize all South Africans to contribute to the ongoing transformation of our country. In doing this, we should strive to foster a common sense of South Africanness and a shared responsibility for a common destiny amongst all citizens of South Africa, black and white.

A lot of detailed work continues to be done to deal with the various aspects of policing challenges. These would include the focus on detectives, stabilisation of the intelligence environment, the focus on training, the management structure of the service, and so on.

The dark epoch of the South African Police Service is receding into the distant past. A new era has dawned in South Africa. Over the last two decades of the democratic rule, giant leaps have been made in an effort to remedy the past imbalances.

We further wish to utilize this Centenary occasion to remember all those men and women in blue who lost their lives in the line of duty. We remember these fallen heroes who refused to be discouraged by actions of heartless criminals. Their selfless dedication was not in vain.

In their pursuit for safety, however rough the road may have been their eyes and minds were firmly fixed on protecting the weak, the vulnerable and the fearful. They protected and served the nation with excellence, right until their untimely passing.

Despite the immense progress we have made, a long road still lies ahead towards the realization of a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united, prosperous, safe and secure South Africa.

As we conclude, we want to underscore the point that despite everything that has been said, we can be bold in stating that a lot of good work is being done in all areas. The consistent downward trends of crime statistics bear testimony to this fact. Nevertheless, we need to do much more.

Collectively, we shall continue to ensure that South Africans are and feel safe, now and for the next 100 years.

I thank you.