Minister Bheki Cele, You Need to Account: An Open Letter

Concerns about the current crime rate, and the state of SAPS budget allocations, personnel, spending, and vehicles grow daily. The man in charge of putting the South African public’s minds at ease is the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. In this open letter I seek solutions and answers from the minister.

An abridged version of this letter appears in The Citizen.


Dear Minister Cele,

South Africans are worried about the state of the country’s policing and public security. Can you provide some feedback?

Department Accommodation

Sir, your department spent R7.5 million of taxpayers’ money on accommodation from April 2019 until mid-June 2022. This equates to R194,466.77 monthly.

For this amount, you or another member could have stayed in the Sandton Hilton’s Royal Suite, uninterrupted, for the period’s full duration. That’s a three-year, two-month and 17-day stint in one of the most luxurious hotel suites in the country. After settling the bill you would still have had R1,934,071.08 of the total amount left over! Please tell us how your ministry could spend this extravagant sum.

Sandton Hilton Hotel Royal Suite @ agoda.com

I’m sure South Africa would also like to know whether any of the R813,942.59 spent on your 2021 trip to Turkey is included in the accommodation figure?

Minister, are you aware that your department spent almost three times as much on accommodation as the average police station over the period? The official 2019/20 statistic states there were 1154 police stations in South Africa at that point. The figure you released shows that the rest of the SAPS spent approximately R1.5 billion over that period. This amounts to a little over R2,200.00 daily per police station – your department spent R6,388.42 per day.


Murder Rate

You recently commented on the South African murder rate:-

The number of murders in this country remains high and worrisome. 6 424 people were killed by other persons in the country in the first quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year. This is an increase of 664 more people murdered, compared to the same period last year, when the country was placed under (the Covid-19) lockdown level (sic) one and two.

Bheki Cele

‘Worrisome’ is an understatement, sir. An 11.53% increase in homicides over a single year isn’t merely ‘worrisome’, it is devastating. statista.com shows South Africa has the world’s eighth highest murder rate in 2022. Metaphorically, Minister, blood is on your hands. A fully-functional SAPS would clearly mean fewer murders but our policing isn’t at that point though, is it?

Statistically, from April to June 2020, 63 daily murders took place. In 2022, 70 murders per day happened over the same period. What will 2023 bring? It’s hard to predict fewer murders with 2022’s visible policing budget being even lower than in 2021. Now South Africa has fewer visible SAPS members and many of their vehicles aren’t operational. You need to urgently reverse this murder escalation, sir.


Budgets & Personnel

Did it make sense to further decrease the visible policing budget from 2021? This budget has decreased SAPS numbers substantially. The current crime rate, and even more predicted personnel reductions, means further questions about service delivery will be raised.

Since 2011/12 SAPS personnel has fallen from almost 200,000 members to an anticipated 163,000 members in 2023/24. – that’s a reduction of over 18% in 12 years. Crime is increasing and such reductions result in added risks and psychological pressure on the brave SAPS members assigned to protect us.

These higher risks and pressure mean recruiting personnel at salaries of between R8,500 and R17,000 monthly will be difficult. Further SAPS reductions will mean slower police reaction times and increased chances of South Africans becoming victims of crime.

The number of personnel was expected to decrease from 181344 in 2020/21 to 162945 in 2023/24, due to natural attrition. Given the significant impact of the reductions on (the) compensation of employees, non‐critical vacant posts will not be filled.

South African Government Website

Please explain what ‘non-critical’ posts are, Minister. The SAPS budget grew by R225 million in 2022, despite not filling ‘non-critical vacant posts’, but the visible policing budget was reduced. Fewer ‘non-critical’ posts should mean a lesser ‘non-critical’ budget, shouldn’t it? Couldn’t the visible policing budget then be increased to allow for further ‘critical’ personnel? This seems logical doesn’t it, sir?


SAPS Vehicles

In August you said a vehicle shortage was hindering efforts to tighten policing and improve response times. This excuse creates public uncertainty about whether you can do your job, Minister. The buck stops with you.

In February you revealed that 1,169 vehicles were out of service in Gauteng alone. In March KwaZulu-Natal’s Transport & Community Safety MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni stated that 1,716 police vehicles out of a total of 4,227 in the province were being repaired. That means that 40.6% of the total police vehicles in KwaZulu-Natal were not in active service.

Your August comment shows nothing’s changed. The SAPS can’t do its job properly because too many of the vehicles you provide are non-functional. It’s time to stop making excuses and find solutions, Minister.

SAPS Vehicle Repair (Image: @GP_CommSafety – Twitter)

Improvement or Change

Minister, the South African public needs solutions. You are responsible for the extravagant spending and your input affects the budget allocations. SAPS reductions are a genuine concern and, sir, non-functional vehicles aren’t excuses, they’re symptoms. Please stop shifting blame.

Crime needs to be reduced. The time for telling concerned citizens to “shut up” is over, Minister Cele. If you can’t or won’t find solutions, perhaps it’s time to allow somebody else to try.

Yours in anticipation

Warren Potter

CopyFounder

Cover image courtesy of The Citizen

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