On Wednesday, in the Portfolio Committee of Police, the South African Police Service (SAPS) announced that National Treasury has instructed SAPS to cut their budget through a 5%, 6% and 7% baseline reduction over the next three years, which may ultimately result in a loss of 23 000 personnel. This shocking announcement comes at a time when the majority of South Africans feel increasingly unsafe in their communities, due to escalating levels of violence and crime.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has proposed an alternative, yet constructive, budget proposal, which considers cutting VIP protection costs instead of other police programmes. The VIP protection budget allocation amounts to approximately R10 million per individual, per year, with an approximate Cabinet cost to taxpayers amounting to R631 million yearly.
It is unconscionable that National Treasury would request SAPS budget cuts, when our police service is already severely under-capacitated and under-resourced. Further budget cuts will only continue to hinder SAPS’ ability to provide visible policing and will condemn citizens to living in even greater fear than they do now. It would appear that the President sold us a pipe dream when he stated he would reduce violent crime by 50%. Currently SAPS has approximately 191 000 employees, a number which would drop to 167 000 by 2022/23. A drop in personnel is not the way to achieve a 50% reduction of violent crime.
The instruction from National Treasury requests that SAPS must cut its budget by R5 billion in 2020/2021, R6.5 billion 2021/22 and in R7.8 billion in 2022/2023. This will lead to 23 617 posts being lost, through an approximate R20 billion cut, over the next three financial years.
SAPS is currently 64 000 police officers short of meeting the United Nations (UN) policing ration of 1:220. In South Africa, the police to citizen ratio is 1:380. A loss of an additional 23 000 personnel is not the answer. The Civil Secretariat has revealed that SAPS’ contingent liability for civil claims currently totals R14 billion per year, with claims relating to unlawful arrests and detention totaling R189 million per year. The budget shortfall should rather be addressed by ensuring a more professional, properly trained police service, with minimal civil claims.
The ANC has bankrupted the state and broken the economy to such an extent that the safety of South African citizens is now at increased risk. Crime thrives in a broken economy. Now is not the time to be tying the hands of SAPS behind their backs. The DA believes that by creating a safer South Africa we can ensure prosperity for all our citizens.