Detective Crisis: SAPS sheds more than 8000 detectives in 6 years

Issued by Andrew Whitfield MP – DA Shadow Minister of Police
15 Oct 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Andrew Whitfield MP

In response to a question from the DA in the Police Portfolio Committee on Wednesday 11th October, National Police Commissioner, Gen. Fanie Masemola, revealed that SAPS has lost 8,400 detectives from 26,000 in 2016/17 to 17,600 today.

Six years ago, the detective manpower stood at approximately 26 000 and today, the figure has been reduced to around 17 600.

The DA has previously exposed the attrition of detectives within SAPS, but General Masemola’s revelation revealed the full extent of the crisis.

The loss of thousands of skilled detectives is compounded by the fact that those left in the detective service also have a shortage of vehicles, as the DA previously exposed that up to 26% of detective vehicles are either broken or inoperable in certain provinces.

During the presentation of the SAPS Annual Report for 2022/23, the DA focused on the crisis within the Detective Services Programme, where it was found that even though SAPS had spent 99.8% of their budget, they only achieved just 43% of their targets in that programme. Even worse, key departments such as the Criminal Records Centre and the Forensics Science Laboratories did not achieved any of their targets in the financial year.

An example of underperformance referenced in the Annual Report is the ability to deal with organised criminal groups. For the target of the percentage of identified organised criminal groups neutralised with arrests, SAPS achieved the following results:

  • Target: 70%
  • Achieved: 22.9% (11 from a total of 48) with 51 arrests.

The deviation of the target really underscores the crisis within Detective Services, where it was even stated that there is an under capacitation of units in organised crime together with the fact that the development of those members in the organised crime environment was inadequate.

SAPS detectives are highly skilled police officers who are critical to ensuring quality investigations which lead to successful prosecutions. Sadly, numerous oversight visits have revealed that detectives are overworked and underpaid, with a case load of hundreds of dockets per detective, making it impossible for any realistic chance for some victims to find justice.

During the 2022 SONA debate, I challenged the President to recruit specialist skills into SAPS and I am pleased that this call has been heeded through a re-enlistment strategy to bring back experience and skills into the SAPS. However, this strategy has only yielded the re-enlistment of 68 detectives, according to the National Commissioner, which is less than 1% of the total number SAPS has lost.

Low morale, skills, and experience attrition, together with the high vacancy rate leads to poor quality investigations, which in turn result in low conviction rates. Detectives are an essential cog in the wheels of justice and this crisis needs to be addressed urgently by Minister Cele.

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