The dire situation within the South African Police Services has raised concerns among crime specialists. Reports suggest that there is a significant exodus of extensively skilled personnel, including members of the Police Special Task Force and the National Intelligence Unit, from the force. The current mass departure of individuals is presenting a substantial obstacle for the remaining law enforcement personnel in their endeavours to address and mitigate criminal activities.

Silver Sibiya 

Crime experts have raised alarms about the crisis faced by the South African Police Service (SAPS) following reports that a significant number of specialist personnel, including members of the Police Special Task Force and the National Intelligence Unit, are leaving the force in large numbers. This exodus is making it increasingly difficult for the remaining police officers to effectively combat crime.

In October National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola told the Police Portfolio Committee that the SAPS had lost 8,400 detectives since 2017 and that they were sitting with 17,600 members, from the initial 26,000 that they had.

The crisis facing the specialised police units has come to the fore recently following an interview with KwaZulu Natal Police Commission Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi – where he bemoaned the high number of specialised police leaving the force.

Mkhwanazi said there was something odd when the elite among the police force were recruited to act as ‘security guards’. He said he is alarmed that almost every day there are members of the Task Force and the National Intelligence Units who are leaving the force.

He said if this is not addressed it will explode on our faces very soon.

Crime Stats have shown that 1 in 4 murders in South Africa are committed in KwaZulu Natal.

Crime experts and activists saying the exodus of skilled police units from the SAPS is cause for alarm. 

The shrinking numbers of NIU and the Tactical Response Team members, and the lack of resources such as the K9 Dog Units and vehicles, were contributing to the high crime levels in South Africa.

An anti-crime activist who has been sounding the bell on the dire state of our policing for decades is Yusuf Abramjee who confirmed that highly trained officers have been vacating their posts in numbers for a while now.

“The exodus has been going on for quite some time, we know over the years police have lost thousands of members including detectives, sometimes uniformed members, and many of them have joined the private security industry. The mere fact that the task team members are leaving in big numbers is also caused for concern,” said Abramjee.

Abramjee attributed the exodus in the police force to low morale caused by frustration and unhappiness over low salaries.

“It again shows the morale in the police is very low, the salary level is far below what the private sector pays, and no wonder the talent is leaving the SAPS for the private sector.

“We know police are struggling to cope, crime levels are going up, with limited resources. The police are battling to create a safer South Africa and that is also a cause of concern,” he said, adding that the shortage of police dogs in some provinces and detectives having more dockets than they can handle were exacerbating the problem.

“We know that police detectives sometimes carry hundreds of dockets, which is why many of the cases go unresolved.”

However, Abramjee warned that the police were at war with criminals and urged South Africans, within the framework of the law, to take a stand against crime and hold the government to account.

“We are certainly in a full-scale war that we are dealing with. Police service needs to wake up and get their act together. The time for talking is over. There needs to be action, there needs to be a political will by the government to create a safer South Africa.”

Head of Justice and Violence Prevention at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Gareth Newham said the police’s ability to crack crime and murders has declined because of the exodus of members of the specialised units.

“The 2012 National Development Plan (NDP) highlighted the ‘serial crises of top management’ in the South African Police Service. The recommendations for addressing these crises were never implemented and so it continued,” he said.

“The consequence is that despite the current SAPS budget being over 90% higher than in 2012, the ability of the police to solve murders has declined by 60%. Until the NDP recommendations for rejuvenating SAPS leadership are implemented, policing capacity and capability will continue to deteriorate, and crime and corruption will remain at unacceptable levels.”

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