Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the great tragedies of South Africa’s democratic dispensation is the unbelievable depths to which our public service has fallen.
Part of this can be attributed to the dire lack of quality of personnel that forms a significant portion of our public service, and which is meant to serve us.
This, in turn, can further be blamed on numerous other unsavory practices, most of which we are all familiar with.
I am referring here, of course, to cronyism, nepotism and rampant corruption.
But perhaps this dire lack of quality that our residents encounter daily can, in large part, be blamed on how, we as a society, have come to view public service merely as an employment centre.
This is what has crippled our public service, and our law enforcement agencies have sadly been unable to escape the clutches of the politically connected and their ability to erode that which they come into contact with.
The true meaning of Public Service has been hollowed out, and in its place now rests a deep, dark space for people with an uncontrollable thirst for political control.
Also in that space are millions of South Africans in need of a job – even if one does not meet the most basic requirements for acquiring employment in the government.
Like many public entities or government agencies, the JMPD has had to confront the harsh realities that come with our unusually high unemployment rate.
In 2017, when we took the bold decision to take public safety and law enforcement seriously – the first time a municipality had shown such courage and conviction – we were surprised to learn that 65 000 people applied for 1 579 trainee positions in the JMPD.
If this does not speak to the desperation of our unemployed masses, I don’t know what does.
And I am willing to bet that most of the applicants were young people who had never known gainful employment, but who in all likelihood possessed qualifications higher than what was required to become JMPD officers.
I understand the desperation our young people feel when faced with the reality of long-term unemployment, despite possessing qualifications which normally would guarantee one a reasonable opportunity of being employed.
It is my considered view, however, that we have to be more circumspect in how we view our public service and law enforcement agencies in relation to the need to create employment opportunities for fellow South Africans.
We have to insist on honesty, integrity, commitment and an unwavering dedication to serve others as the supreme values to rely upon when deciding who can be accepted into our law enforcement agencies.
This is absolutely important, given that nations, and their cities, rise or fall on the principle of the Rule of Law.
The world’s greatest nations and cities are distinguishable by their ability to keep their people safe, in the best of times and especially in the worst.
Authorities tasked with leading these nations and cities know that the immediate job at hand is not merely to keep residents safe but to carry out their work in such a manner that allows people to ACTUALLY feel safe.
This is the ultimate goal for public representatives like myself, and it will so for each of you once you have taken your oath and begin active duty.
There are those who would suggest that we are losing the fight against crime and lawlessness but I want to say to all of you here today, we are not ones to throw in the towel so easily.
To the residents of the City of Johannesburg, we are all too aware of what the failure to apprehend criminals and lawbreakers, especially the murderers of our law enforcement officers, would mean to you.
It would mean that evil and lawlessness have won over law and order.
That can never be. It will never be, not so long as we hold dear our promise to you of change.
To the JMPD trainees before me as well as those who have served for some time now, I say each of you have what it takes to take back Johannesburg from those who have dedicated themselves to a life of crime.
By no means will the task be an easy one. It has never been but we owe it to each other, our loved ones and our communities to restore the Rule of Law and get criminals off our streets.
And there are clear signs of success. Even in the early days of this administration, we began seeing a turnaround as a result of decisive action to bolster our police.
JMPD capacitated its force with the addition of 332 new officers in 2017, after hosting two pass out parades in April and November of that year.
Within the first quarter of that year, the JMPD Narcotics Unit had confiscated thousands of kilograms of drugs throughout the City.
Crime statistic pointed to impressive declines.
We saw this downward trend in the number of residential burglaries as well as business burglaries.
Other crime headaches for the City – motor vehicle theft and common robbery – also came down significantly.
Even though we were barely a year in office, it is my contention that these figures are a testament to the fact that we were and are slowly winning the battle against crime.
We will eventually win the war.
Not ones to rest on our laurels, we recruited 1579 trainees to further strengthen the JMPD.
You, the 1085 trainees who will be sworn in today, are hard-working ones who made it past a very rigorous process, and I congratulate you.
Your success in making it this far will assist the JMPD to swell its ranks significantly. This is crucial given that, at any one time, JMPD only has about 700 officers on patrol.
In a city of more than 5 million residents, this is simply not adequate.
But this good work will come to nothing unless urgent attention is paid to our porous borders and the National Criminal Justice System is effective.
For as long as our borders remain as vulnerable as they are, our police will continuously chase a moving target as a result of some criminal elements who will seize on the weakness, to commit crimes and move in and out of the country at will.
I therefore call on the Department of Home Affairs to fulfil its Constitutional obligation, as a matter of extreme urgency.
Secondly, our police are being failed by the Justice System. We often hear complaints of how useless police supposedly are but little consideration is given to the fact that, once police have arrested people suspected of committing crimes, it is actually up to the NPA to prosecute cases.
If this essential step in the fight against crime is not taken, then we merely serve to frustrate and demoralize our police.
It is criminals who must be demoralised, not our police. The only way to do that is to create a culture of successful prosecution of crimes.
In this way, we will create a very real expectation in the minds of criminals that they will be caught and sent to jail, hopefully for lengthy terms if they dare commit crimes in South Africa.
At the moment, we are achieving the opposite effect; criminals are emboldened.
This is unacceptable.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We continue to win in areas where previous administrations failed.
This is because we have always understood that, in order to build a credible and effective law enforcement department, political leaders MUST take the necessary Political Decisions to give effect to such a goal.
For years, previous administrations failed to provide proper attention to the JMPD so that they could properly carry out their work.
The truth must be spoken; it must be spoken bluntly so that we can attend urgently to all those things that need fixing.
In that way, we can begin to work our way towards the standards of municipal policing that will allow us to compare favourably with the best in the world.
But we will never ascend to those levels unless we insist on excellence. The reality, however, is that we have never truly demanded excellence in municipal policing to a point where it becomes a norm, rather than an exception.
I have always been of the opinion that the City was, for the longest time, held in the grip of corrupt and lawless officials.
Under that sort of environment, is it any wonder that lawlessness would be the order of the day?
Years of watching leaders within the City and across our society have taught our people to accept lawlessness.
This lawlessness has manifested in various ways, including in the frequent attacks experienced by our officers.
I was shocked to learn recently of an incident in Alexandra in which traders physically attacked a female JMPD officer who was merely doing her job.
This officer, who was subsequently treated in hospital following the attack, was beaten by these traders when she and her colleagues attempted to confiscate goods from being sold in contravention of the City’s by-laws.
She is among the lucky ones.
Our other colleagues in the JMPD, who are not so lucky, are often exposed to life-threatening situations which require them to act in a firm but fair manner.
It is in these sort of situations that our law enforcement officers have to make split second decisions to protect themselves while ensuring not to act in a manner that may be seen as being tantamount to police brutality.
Often enough, very little noise is made when our officers are on the receiving end of violent or reckless behaviour.
While it the job of our police officers to protect us, who protects them when faced with life-threatening situations, often as a result of our actions?
It is this question we should seek answers to whenever we launch into unwarranted attacks on police officers or when the criminal justice system fails to curb this behaviour through decisive prosecution.
It is not acceptable for society to erupt in anger when a police officer faces questions over their conduct but maintains silence when officers are attacked and maimed.
In the event that an officer faces questions over their conduct, particularly in a situation that requires them to protect themselves against aggression, I implore all involved to consider the facts first and learn to give our officers the benefit of the doubt.
You will be surprised to learn of the number of instances in which officers were unfairly criticised, only to discover that their actions were justified and within the bounds of the law as well as the code of conduct of their organisation.
But there is one important aspect of this treatment that has clearly escaped many people.
I wonder how much thought is given to the effect of this unfair criticism and outrage on the ability of our police officers to discharge their duty without feeling a sense of apprehension.
We need to be wary of neutralizing our officers. Ultimately, they may discharge their duties while feeling as though their hands are tied behind their backs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I issue this warning, not negating the importance of our police officers acting within the law.
In fact, I am confident that the training they have gone through will provide them with the skills necessary to serve Johannesburg’s residents within the bounds of the law.
Throughout their training, our new officers dealt with matters of law and constitutionalism, finance, restraining techniques, professional conduct and the fight against corruption.
They then attended further training by the SAPS, where they learnt further about the criminal justice system, tactical street survival, crime prevention as well as how to manage incidents of domestic violence and children in conflict with the law.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the SAPS, under the leadership of the National Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khehla Sithole and the Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, for equipping our officers with the skills they need to serve our residents better.
My gratitude also goes to the Acting Director of the JMPD Academy, Mr Mogomotsi Mashigo, as well as the Directors and Senior Managers who guided our new recruits through what must have been a rigorous, demanding and challenging training regime.
Lastly, I pay tribute to the MMC for Public Safety, Councillor Michael Sun, and the Chief of Police, David Tembe.
Working hand-in-hand, you have brought to life the vision of our multi-party government of creating an effective law enforcement department that has come to be respected by the residents of Johannesburg.
I know that it could not have been easy to preside over an organisation that had existed for almost 20 years and seek to drive it in a new direction; to entrench a new culture, new values and adopt a professional ethos.
But your dedication is paying off. It is really up to those who will come after to decide whether to continue on the current path or return the JMPD to a proxy of the politically connected.
As for me, I desire to see a JMPD that will strengthened to become a professional police department that puts the well-being of its officers as well as the residents of Johannesburg first above all else.
To our new officers, I congratulate you once more for your success and your decision to choose law enforcement.
I hope you will consider this a calling, and not merely a job.
I hope you will stay true to your oath; never to betray your badge, your integrity, your character or that of the JMPD nor forsake the public’s trust.
For 25 years, South Africans have been betrayed, their dreams and aspirations sold for a few pieces of silver.
I implore you; have the courage to hold yourselves accountable and most importantly, uphold the Constitution of South Africa.
I thank you.