Desta­bil­is­ing the po­lice force could threaten the sta­bil­ity of the en­tire coun­try, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

IN 1994 we in­her­ited a mil­i­tarised state where the po­lice force (now ser­vice) had played a cen­tral role in prop­ping up apartheid colo­nial­ism. Today, South Africa’s po­lice ser­vice also faces the threat of in­fil­tra­tion by sin­is­ter el­e­ments that har­bour po­lit­i­cal and crim­i­nal in­tent. It is no sur­prise that a strong and pop­u­lar gov­ern­ment such as ours that is seen as an as­set for peace and de­vel­op­ment to other parts of Africa should gen­er­ate many en­e­mies. The logic is that once you desta­bilise the po­lice force, you are on your way to­wards desta­bil­is­ing the coun­try, as well as com­pro­mise its so­cial and eco­nomic fab­ric.

In ad­di­tion to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, crim­i­nals also work con­tin­u­ally to in­fil­trate the po­lice and to ex­ploit the gains of our hard-earned democ­racy. In cer­tain cases com­mu­ni­ties have marched on po­lice sta­tions and al­leged that the top ech­e­lons of those sta­tions are un­der the cap­ture of or­gan­ised crim­i­nal gangs. Surely this kind of per­cep­tion of malaise and be­trayal of our peo­ple and con­sti­tu­tion needs to be re­versed.

Of­ten crim­i­nals in­fil­trate the SAPS by first con­vinc­ing the po­lice that they are not ac­count­able to any­one other than them­selves, thereby delink­ing SAPS mem­bers from the peo­ple they serve, as if our polic­ing author­ity sim­ply fell from the sky. Se­condly, money is used as a bait and with it false prom­ises of a se­cure fu­ture and the good times. It’s the curse of crass ma­te­ri­al­ism that sadly has come to en­trap and en­slave some of our peo­ple in gen­eral, in­clud­ing a few rot­ten ap­ples in the SAPS.

The be­lief that SAPS mem­bers can do their work with­out be­ing ac­count­able is in­cor­rect be­cause South African cit­i­zens through the con­sti­tu­tion are the source of author­ity for the po­lice.

The as­ser­tion that money is power is also in­cor­rect as it is not pos­si­ble to en­joy wealth in a crim­i­nally in­fested en­vi­ron­ment. After all, as hu­man be­ings, one of our prin­ci­pal tasks is to cre­ate safety and peace­ful co-ex­is­tence in so­ci­ety. Clearly with­out safety and se­cu­rity, peo­ple are re­stricted from liv­ing life to the fullest and to pur­sue their in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive dreams as they may wish.

Threats to se­cu­rity must be lo­cated in the his­tor­i­cal evo­lu­tion of the char­ac­ter of polic­ing in South Africa. Pre-colo­nial state vi­o­lence ex­pressed it­self in an or­gan­ised form in that sol­diers from Europe were brought in to sup­port “set­tlers” in the early days of colo­nial­ism. Se­condly, state vi­o­lence was com­mu­nal or struc­tural – dur­ing slav­ery, vi­o­lence was the main lan­guage of power for land­lords against work­ers, par­tic­u­larly on farms. These prac­tices were ac­cepted and en­dorsed by suc­ces­sive colo­nial gover­nors – in any event the Amer­i­cas and parts of Europe were role models.

Post 1910, the sol­diers were no longer at the fore­front of main­tain­ing colo­nial and im­pe­rial re­pres­sion. In­stead this task be­came the core func­tion of the po­lice. The po­lice be­came the sup­pres­sive arm of a re­pres­sive state, re­flec­tive of the class and racial apartheid po­lar­i­ties and in­ter­ests of the time.

The pre­am­ble to our con­sti­tu­tion in­juncts us to recog­nise the in­jus­tices of the past and to heal the di­vi­sions that con­tinue to char­ac­terise our so­ci­ety. Since the dawn of democ­racy, we have taken steps to de­mil­i­tarise the po­lice and to pro­mote vis­i­ble and ser­vice-ori­ented polic­ing. The de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of po­lice struc­tures, rank­ings, uni­form and equip­ment was done with a view to pro­mot­ing more cre­ative, so­cially skilled polic­ing as well as to ame­lio­rate the per­cep­tion that the SAPS was the army by an­other name.

There is no doubt that the de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion process will help cre­ate the con­di­tions nec­es­sary for com­mu­nity polic­ing such as pa­trolling on foot, which were un­re­al­is­tic whilst there were lev­els of hos­til­ity to­wards the po­lice in many ar­eas. Sec­tion 195 of the con­sti­tu­tion high­lights the fol­low­ing prin­ci­ples: par­tic­i­pa­tion, ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and re­spon­sive­ness.

The po­lice is in­cluded in the con­sti­tu­tion as part of pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and, by ex­ten­sion, of the pub­lic ser­vice. Align­ing our­selves to the spirit of the con­sti­tu­tion re­quires three ar­eas of change, namely a new im­age, re-en­gi­neer­ing apartheid in­fras­truc­tural pat­terns, and inclusive and par­tic­i­pa­tory de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion.

All po­lice should be drilled on the Bill of Rights and its prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions, and it should be the foun­da­tion of all poli­cies. We have to be re­spected, trusted and known to be in­cor­rupt­ible.

Our po­lice must be ac­ces­si­ble. Free­dom with­out ac­cess is mean­ing­less. Let’s put our heads to­gether and have a short-and a long-term plan to ad­dress the is­sue.

We need ef­fi­cient po­lice sta­tions. In the short term, we can ex­plore the de­ploy­ment of satel­lite sta­tions; in the long term we need to en­sure that we build po­lice in­fra­struc­ture in all for­mer dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties.

We also need to have gen­uine inclusive and par­tic­i­pa­tory pol­icy mak­ing. There needs to be struc­tured en­gage­ment with peo­ple on the is­sue of pol­icy for­mu­la­tion be­yond the need for com­pli­ance.

Our peo­ple must be given their chance to say their say. They should have ac­cess to shap­ing the poli­cies. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to ap­pre­ci­ate why proper com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion is needed, as poli­cies af­fect the peo­ple and there­fore they know best how it should be nu­anced.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion should not only be con­fined to the for­mu­la­tion of pol­icy. It is im­por­tant to in­volve our peo­ple in the en­tire process – the de­vel­op­ment of polic­ing pol­icy, the ad­min­is­ter­ing of polic­ing, and mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion. This will al­low for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of pol­icy to be tweaked in ac­cor­dance with lo­cal needs.

Fi­nally, it is im­per­a­tive to ac­knowl­edge that the demo­cratic state is a prod­uct of the strug­gle of the peo­ple. It is the peo­ple who es­tab­lish the demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing those vested with the power to ex­er­cise vi­o­lence.

The vi­o­lence ex­er­cised by state in­sti­tu­tions ac­tu­ally be­longs to the peo­ple, who en­trust the state with this power so as to de­fend their free­dom, en­sure peace and de­vel­op­ment. Thus the con­sti­tu­tion states, that: “Na­tional se­cu­rity must re­flect the re­solve of South Africans, as in­di­vid­u­als and as a na­tion, to live as equals, to live in peace and har­mony, to be free from fear and want and to seek a bet­ter life.” Hence the con­sti­tu­tion de­fines na­tional se­cu­rity as an all-en­com­pass­ing and holis­tic con­cept that en­ables peo­ple to live in peace, en­joy equal ac­cess to re­sources as well as to trans­form and de­velop their lives.

The ob­jec­tive of na­tional se­cu­rity goes be­yond achiev­ing an ab­sence of war and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence. It in­cludes the con­sol­i­da­tion of democ­racy, re­spect for hu­man rights, so­cial jus­tice, sus­tain­able eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment.

If we are to achieve all of the above, we will make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­vi­sion of the Free­dom Char­ter that: “All shall be equal be­fore the law,” and par­tic­u­larly that, “the po­lice… shall be the helpers and pro­tec­tors of the peo­ple.” MP Nkosi­nathi Nh­leko is the Min­is­ter of Po­lice

OUR PRO­TEC­TORS: Mem­bers of the po­lice force have an im­por­tant role in South Africa as they are tasked with help­ing to con­sol­i­date democ­racy by re­spect­ing hu­man rights, main­tain­ing so­cial jus­tice, en­sur­ing sus­tain­able eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, the writer says.

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