Fixing the criminal justice system starts by rooting out corruption at the top
- Osiame Molefe
- 26 Jun 2012 11:56 (South Africa)
Since taking office in 2009, President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet has done much to reduce crime. In fact, reducing crime is one of the too few areas in which the administration has made progress. According to the latest statistics, overall serious crime has come down since 2009/10, from over 3,800 to about 3,600 per 100,000 of the population currently. Murders, attempted murders, carjackings and house robberies, continuing the trend since 1994, have also come down under Zuma's watch.
Briefing the media on Monday on the fourth-quarter outputs of the criminal justice system, justice and constitutional development minister Jeff Radebe said the reduction in crime statistics was the result of the government's directed strategic interventions in this regard.
“The overall serious crime went down by 0.5% in the fourth quarter compared to the same period last year. During the period under review (January to March 2012), contact crimes were reduced by 1.2% to 307.8 per 100,000 of the population,” Radebe said.
The minister also said prosecutions of so-called trio crime (house robberies, vehicle hijackings and business robberies) were up in 2011/12 compared to the previous year, and in excess of R540-million in criminal assets had been frozen this financial year alone.
Despite the downward trends in most crime statistics and increases in prosecutions, indications exist that the public lacks faith in the criminal justice system due to perceptions of corruption.
According to a report released earlier this month by consumer insights firm Pondering Panda, 62% of the over 4,000 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed believed the police were becoming more corrupt and 57% said they believed the government had not put the right people in charge of the police.
Another survey, by the Human Sciences Research Council – the 2011 South African Social Attitudes Survey – said 66% of the approximately 3,000 respondents believed bribery and corruption were endemic in the South African police service. That was almost twice the percentage who believed number-two ranked home affairs was corrupt.
A more comprehensive study, the 2011 victims of crime survey conducted by StatsSA, said since 2007, policing, particularly in the Western Cape, had become second on the list of government services where bribe solicitation was perceived to be pervasive. This is further shown in the breakdown in relations between the communities and police in Nyanga and Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats, which has seen residents impart a particularly brutal brand of vigilante justice. Over the past three months, nine young men suspected of house breaking and theft were burned alive by members of the community.
“When we try to report crimes to seek justice, we are turned away from police stations or treated very poorly by officers. When crimes occur and we report them, police often don't arrive at the scene at all. If a case makes it into the courtroom, it can drag on for years or be thrown out due to bungled investigation or corruption,” Khayelitsha residents said in an open letter handed to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille two weeks ago.
These perceptions of corruption are not helped by several high-profile fraud and corruption investigations and convictions of senior members of the criminal justice system. It could even be argued that the lower echelons of the criminal justice system just mirror the top. So if the police minister is thought to be abusing the crime intelligence slush fund, an ordinary police officer at the coal face could more easily justify why he or she would solicit payment for performing a service they'd been hired to do.
The rot at the top of the criminal justice system has been laid bare in recent years. Within the span of five years, two consecutive national police commissioners, Jackie Selebi and Bheki Cele, have been fired, with the former prosecuted and convicted of corruption and the latter found guilty of maladministration. Richard Mdluli, the several-times suspended chief of crime intelligence, faces murder and kidnapping charges and a swarm of allegations, including nepotism, misuse of public funds and using the country's intelligence apparatus in internal ANC battles. Allegations were that Mdluli has, as a talisman, dirt on top government officials, including Zuma and police minister Nathi Mthethwa.
The decay in the police service appears to be spreading laterally to other justice structures, in light of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach's claims that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba was acting to protect Mdluli. Question marks also hang over the series of actions that saw prosecutors drop the kidnapping and murder charges against Mdluli in December last year.
Radebe on Monday gave only cursory mention of the progress on initiatives to combat corruption within the justice, crime prevention and security sectors. This is one of the outputs the Zuma administration set out to measure its performance against in 2009. Radebe said in 2011/12, 107 officials from the cluster were convicted for corruption and related charges. According to Radebe, this was evidence of the success of anti-corruption initiatives in the cluster as the number of convictions had increased from the previous year.
However, within the SA Police Service, successive anti-corruption initiatives put in place since Selebi closed the anti-corruption unit in 2002 have failed to take hold due to lack of buy-in from the organisation's management and executives, according to the Institute of Security Studies. SAPS is currently implementing yet another anti-corruption strategy, which was presented to Parliament late last year.
Built on pillars of prevention, detection, investigation and resolution, the strategy focuses on rooting out corruption within the SAPS rank and file, which is important, but the strategy gives too little attention to the effects of what is happening at the top. So even if the strategy is implemented effectively, the rot from the top could just seep down and soil the lower ranks again. DM
- Something very rotten: Political shenanigans to do with the police look worse and worse, in The Economist
- Why a South African anti-corruption agency must be independent of the police to be effective (video), from PolitySA
- Protector or predator, tackling police corruption in South Africa (pdf), from the Institute of Security Studies
- ANALYSIS: the DA's battle to buddy up to the everyman
- SA's very own ‘Made in Israel’ war of words
- Limpopo textbooks - only the beginning of basic education's woes
- Fixing the criminal justice system starts by rooting out corruption at the top
- This time Cosatu rebuts the divisive youth wage subsidy with words, not stones
- The broad church means the ANC is too big not to fail
- Opposition MPs stake their claim on foreign relations morality in Tibet debate
- Lindiwe Sisulu's message of change
- Crisis or challenge, school infrastructure is nowhere near where it should be
- Political forecast for the week of 18 June: E-tolls, looming strikes, eurozone meltdowns and premiers on bikes
- PSC report could be straw that breaks some premiers' backs
- Art in a sling: Breaking walls and building a nation in paint and print
- Fighting graft with faith: Western Cape religious leaders talk corruption
- Basic education: Some gloom, some doom and a mountain still to be done
- SA's new political tool: Freedom of Cape Town for the Obamas
- Education: Waiting for the dam to burst
- Mthethwa to challenge Western Cape community safety bill
- Public sector unions and government set on a collision course
- Cabinet's mid-term report card: F for fail
- Despite objections, government stands by e-tolling
- Zwelinzima Vavi: Political consciousness leaves quietly
- E-education: A virtual dream for many public school students
- Cape Town's vision 2040
- The Spear: Black anger and white obliviousness
- Employment: Western Cape model provides glimmer of hope
- Brainstorm: The state of income inequality in South Africa
- Reporter's notebook: Decoding the Democratic Alliance
- As one struggle continues, the other should not be forgotten
- Analysis: The youth wage subsidy should not go the way of the nationalisation debate
- Another internecine war rocks the government
- Analysis: DA's young Turks tackle the race issue
- Despite indications to the contrary, South Africa's democracy is growing up
- South Africa: War criminals' holiday destination no more?
- Africa goes hi-tech: But where are all those keen investors?
- A warning for mankind: Beware the new Big Brother
- Gents, rape isn't a thing that only other men do
- Partisan dust-up over rights of the disabled goes nowhere
- Eish, DA!
- SA news media: under pressure AND under magnifying lens
- The ANC and the battle for the 'born-frees'
- Fighting shadows: How money corrupts the ANC - and its plan to stop it
- Analysis: Will the ANC seriously consider party funding this year?
- Zuma is worst president ANC has ever had
- Tough lessons for Zille from refugee tweet debacle
- Top 10 battles raging within the tripartite alliance
- Cosatu defends 'principled position' at secrecy bill hearings
- Protests are a sign of ignorance of democracy's power
- Zimbabwe torture victims turn to SA courts
- The turbulent waters of the NPA's Zim email-strom
- Ladies and gentlemen, the contemplative Ms Mazibuko
- Refugee reactions show that South Africans stand apart from Africans
- Analysis: Steep learning curve for alliance in Western Cape
- Race is just a useful marker to distinguish the worthy from the unworthy
- UCT's admissions policy unearths middle-class black angst
- Analysis: Vavi hangs Zuma out to dry
- NGO hauls Motshekga to court over school infrastructure
- Cosatu also exploits the poor out of self-interest
- Cape Town ready for Cosatu city centre shut down
- Eastern Cape pupils picket for libraries and sanitation
- Wednesday: Over 35,000 expected in Cape Town CBD instalment of Cosatu-led nationwide protest
- Frivolous comparisons to apartheid are the only thing worse than apartheid
- Analysis: Radebe's egg-dance fails to impress as bumpy road awaits
- Analysis: The Constitutional Court is the next cow to the abattoir
- How voters' right to know is bought and sold in SA
- Helen Zille's sore spot
- Sex and sexuality in a time of societal malaise
- Cosatu takes anti-corruption fight to Free State
- Cosatu and corruption, the phantom menace
- Eat, the beloved country
- Who will take responsibility?
- Cape Town, world racism capital 2011?
- The ANC has only itself to blame for bad press
- New adult channel stokes South Africa's porn conundrum
- Carrots, sticks and Zille's latest HIV misstep
- Analysis: Just how liberal is the DA?
- Russell Tribunal deliberates Apartheid Israel amid "kangaroo court" claims
- Mogoeng's first day on the job
- Never mind creation, Gordhan's mini-budget focuses on job retention
- There is, thankfully, a Pedi word for big 'misunderstanding'
- Malema’s economic freedom lecture: Swansong or come-back hit?
- African leaders meet to talk job creation and labour standards
- Diversity a trump card as more endorsements come in for Mazibuko
- Rights groups cry foul as South Africa resumes deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans
- The day of the Archbishop's ire
- The DA's surprising proposal on domestic worker rights
- Mazibuko's star rises as she outlines her plan for the DA parliamentary caucus
- ANALYSIS: The Western Cape takes the thought leadership in job creation - now all we need is action
- ANC makes U-turn on secrecy bill - and lives to tell the tale
- Secrecy bill: to be or not to be - we're about to find out
- President's day of fun and amusement in Parliament
- Public Protector on participatory democracy, secrecy bill and her office's powers. And the country in trouble.
- Vettel victorious at Monza
- WikiLeaks cables go public, unfiltered
- Sisulu stands by decision to appoint Yengeni to defence review committee
- Vettel leads home a Red Bull 1-2 at Spa-Francorchamps
- Belgian Grand Prix: Preview
- Democratic Alliance eyes 2014 national elections with economic policy promise
- Analysis: Time for a fresh look at SA's global competitiveness
- Analysis: Missing history, lacking context bring back the great white-tax debate