Putting politics before people – how the ANC destroyed the police

Martin van Staden / Midjourney
Martin van Staden / Midjourney

This article was first published by Business Day on 16 May 2024

The ANC government has repeatedly put politics before people. Since coming to power in 1994, this government has made it clear that it cares more about holding onto its authority, maximising the profitability of corruption, and pushing for its own petty ideology than truly doing what’s best for South Africans.

Nowhere is this clearer than in how the ANC has devastated the SA Police Service (SAPS), a process that has resulted in SA becoming one of the sexual violence capitals of the world, with a murder rate comparable to the death toll of a war.

The tragic reality is that this country didn’t need to be this way. Gangsterism, rape epidemics, swathes of unsolved murders and mass violence were not an inevitability. They occurred, and still occur, because the ANC destroyed law enforcement and continues to impede it from doing its job.

The 1996 constitution ensured that the SAPS would be a centralised entity, with the minister of police holding ultimate power over law enforcement. Provincial governments were denied autonomy over their law enforcement needs, with the minister and central government having final say.

This has resulted in the SAPS becoming a bloated entity that cannot perform its duty adequately on any level. Rot in any part of the police hierarchy comes to infest the whole, as station commanders, officers and officials infect their subordinates and colleagues with corruption and incompetence.

When the national SAPS fails to train police, hire new manpower, or remain accountable to the citizenry, every station throughout the country follows suit.

Police should not be centralised, and the ANC’s refusal to allow the DA-run Western Cape to have its own provincial police force, rather than a token Metro Police, has prevented the province from solving its endemic gangsterism. This is a complex issue that requires a local response, not a heavy-handed, apathetic gesture from a government that doesn’t care what happens on the ground.

The ANC’s obsession with race and racial quotas was put into law with the Employment Equity Act of 1998. Even before this, cadre deployment had already ravaged the higher echelons of the police administration.

Veteran white police officers were pressured out of their jobs, encouraged to resign and denied promotion. Underqualified and inexperienced black officers were appointed to replace them but were given inadequate training. Many undertrained and undeserving political appointees came to fill demanding roles that they were ill prepared for.

This did not need to happen. Race quotas should have remained an artefact of apartheid. Without political meddling, skilled and deserving black police recruits would have inevitably risen to positions of prominence. They just needed to be given time and not forced into the role.

Additionally, every organisation needs its older members to train the new generation. By pressuring out the veteran police, there was no-one left to train the new recruits. This left the entire police force undertrained and lacking essential skills.

The ANC is so deluded by its ideology of radical Marxism and socialism, as discussed in Anthea Jeffrey’s excellent book, Countdown to Socialism, that it truly believes that the root of all crime is unemployment, poverty and the sins of past economic injustices.

Because the ANC believed its national democratic revolution (NDR) would eliminate these things, it felt that the only purpose of law enforcement was to prevent crime, not solve crimes that had already been committed.

According to Jeffrey, “the ANC downgraded the importance of detective work”. Detectives were stripped of their autonomy and separate hierarchy, placing them under the politicised and incompetent leadership of the centralised SAPS.

Many detectives resigned after being faced with this incompetence and politicking. Race quotas and the alienation of veteran detectives made it harder to recruit skilled replacements.

In 2002, on the heels of mass reshuffling and chaos after 500 specialised police units were shut down in 2001, the police unit dedicated to preventing corruption within the police was disbanded. This was while corruption was on the rise.

The replacement for the anti-corruption unit, the Independent Complaints Directorate, relied on three, and then two, inspectors to handle all reports of corruption within the SAPS.

Corruption is endemic in the SAPS, with petty bribery being endemic across the force, and personnel even selling vast amounts of weapons to gangsters.

The Directorate of Special Operations, more commonly known as the Scorpions, was tasked with combating organised crime and corruption, but because it performed too well (targeting many corrupt politicians), it was dissolved in 2009. This was almost undeniably because the Scorpions were not easily controlled by the ANC.

State meddling

The root of the SAPS’ failures is the government meddling in its affairs. The police should be decentralised and accountable to local government and local residents. If there is to be a national police force, it should be concerned only with national crimes, somewhat like the FBI in the US.

A separate, independent structure needs to be re-established for detectives so that they can focus on the incredibly important and now neglected task of solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice. It is beyond foolish to think there is no importance in punishing criminals who have already committed crimes. And no number of jobs or prosperity will stop the most hardened criminal. Only good detective work will.

Additionally, police must be allowed to focus on addressing crime — especially violent crime — not the swathes of victimless crimes that now distract them. Strike these bad laws from the books and let the police focus on protecting the innocent. That is their job after all. And it is about time they started taking it seriously.


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The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author.




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