Police Minister Bheki Cele says the relationship between himself and the National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole has not contributed to instability within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Police top brass have briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on stability and restructuring within the service on Thursday. Members of Parliament questioned Cele about media reports that the two leaders are at loggerheads.

The Minister says the relationship between himself and the National Police Commissioner has not contributed to instability within the SAPS. He further explains that the nature of their relationship has no bearing on the work they do.

“The National Commissioner and I, let me repeat, we are not friends. We don’t drink coffee together. But we work together. In that work, (there are) things we won’t agree upon … (it’s) not animosity. (It) might be that there are things we don’t agree on, but to say we are chaos, we don’t work together, I don’t agree.”

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The poor relationship between the Police minister and the top cop in the country has been widely reported on. It is alleged that they don’t see eye-to-eye over matters in the intelligence division. MPs questioned whether relations between them are affecting stability within SAPS.

Budget cuts

Police say consecutive budget cuts have led to an increase in the ratio between officials and the population. Sithole says budget cuts have led to the SAPS not being able to fulfil its mandate of preventing, combating and investigating crime.

“You police a population of 49 million with 199 000 strength. Then you are expected to police an increased population of between 58-59 million with 162 000 strength. And that is a considerable scale down and it handicaps the fulfilment of section 205.”

SAPS Head of Strategic Management Lieutenant General Leon Rabie says, “As a result, we see growing population compared to reduced police service. The ratio of police to population is increasing. So, at best, (we) had a ratio of 1 to 254 and (we’re) currently, seeing the ratio of 1 to 327.”

Committee chairperson, Tina Joemat-Pettersson calls on the SAPS to restore its reputation.

“There has to be confident in what we do as SAPS. Reputation is sincerely tarnished. We need revitalised top management echelon with forward-thinking professionals.”

Joemat-Pettersson says the recent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal, is an example of the shortcomings within the SAPS.

Updating MPs on the recent protests, the Hawks say there is a process underway to investigate the instigators of the violence. The committee will also be leading an inquiry into the unrest.

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Meanwhile, Head of the Hawks, General Godfrey Lebeya says 11 people out of 12, believed to be some of the instigators of the violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, have been arrested.

Lebeya told MPs that law enforcement agencies are making progress in their investigations.

“Regarding the 12 people mentioned, the National Commissioner has indicated that there are other people already arrested. A whole process is taking place between investigating team and NPA.”

NOTE: This article was amended on 30/07/2021