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Report on the Ministerial dialogue with Minister of Police, Nkosinathi Nhleko

25 May 2015

1. Background and objective of the dialogue

A dialogue with the Minister of Police, Nkosinathi Nhleko, was hosted by the Progressive Business Forum (PBF) at Coastlands Hotel, Umhlanga, Durban on 25 May 2015.

The PBF is the business programme of the African National Congress with the objective of promoting honest, frank and open discussion between the business community of South Africa and the movement, as the primary policy developer of South Africa. The discussion was facilitated by Daryl Swanepoel, PBF convenor.

The objective of the dialogue was to engage with the Minster, make proposals and offer suggestions of what contributions the business community in particular can offer to the Ministry.

The meeting was attended by Minister of Police, Nkosinathi Nhleko, as well as Colonel GM Naidoo, Kwa-Zulu Natal Provincial Commissioner of Police, stakeholders from the PBF, the Progressive Citizens Forum, the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut and representatives of the business community.

2. Summary of ministerial input

The police service today is very different to that under apartheid and even to that in 1994: it is important to acknowledge this ongoing transformation.

In the first place, the past decade has seen a downward trend in crime. Recent research, done under the auspices of the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Department of the Presidency, shows a degree of improvement in South Africans’ perception of their own safety and security, despite a continued fear of crime. Second, there has been a positive change in the relationship between police and the South African people at large.

Nonetheless, the violent nature of crime in South Africa is a serious concern, particularly where excessive force is used, for example, in farm murders and petty theft. The violence carried out during strikes, in terms of destruction of property, is another example, as is the violence associated with political score settling or xenophobia...

Further challenges exist in the capacity of the police to create solutions to crime, on the one hand, in the context of underdevelopment and lack of infrastructure. On the other hand, the police face criticism in the spheres of moral conduct and professionalism, where a well-trained leadership needs to lead the change. An additional challenge is the development of effective community-based structures which can provide oversight of police structures.

Solutions do lie neither in vigilante justice, nor the appearance of a crime-fighting, wand-waving superhero. It cannot simply be imported wholesale from somewhere else. Instead, effective policing needs to be based in the South African Constitution and within the confines of the law. It needs to be based in the desire of the police to carry out their duty of service to the community with pride. It also lies in the changing relationship between police and community, from one of fear, intimidation and mistrust, to one of respect and cooperation so that citizens and police alike take responsibility for achieving common objectives.

3. Discussion

(a) The National Development Plan (NDP)


  • How is the NDP being implemented and monitored, particularly in terms of budget for infrastructure?
  • How is the government going to ensure that the investment needed in South Africa will be unlocked?
  • What is the government’s position on the possible privatisation of unsustainable government institutions?
  • What are the business opportunities in terms of privatisation?


The particular section of the NDP relevant to the police is Chapter 12, which emphasises four pillars: demilitarisation, professionalization of the police force, community engagement, and an integrated justice system. Work has already begun across these four areas. In the area of demilitarisation, for example, investment, training and re-capacitation of the public border policing unit has been underway since December 2013. Demilitarisation also takes the form of using particular equipment, such as water cannons, rather than lethal weapons associated with military interventions. Community engagement is taking place through the revival of community forums and other civic structures to share information between community and police.

Engaging in economic debate is not really within the remit of the police portfolio. However, there is a real need to engage with the questions of financing and bailing out state institutions. There is a tendency to immediately turn to privatisation as a solution to inefficiency, a kneejerk reaction that says, if you want efficiency, privatise. It is true that there is weakness in South African governance structures, particularly in consequence management, which leads, for example, to lack of motivation, resulting in poor service. This equilibrium needs to be disturbed so that a mentality of inefficiency is challenged and our own state institutions become efficient. To achieve this, there is a need to invest in and manage existing human resources and structures of accountability, with the requisite monitoring of targets.

(b) The challenge of terrorism


  • What is government doing to protect South Africans, particularly the youth, from infiltration and recruitment by ISIS?


The question of ISIS is really a greater question of terrorism and one which the government takes very seriously. However, it is also a question of youth and the role of parents and community being involved in protecting South Africa’s children and keeping them secure. This may, for instance, involve parents monitoring young people’s access to technology and hence communication with possible recruiters, as well as young people’s travel plans. The security forces are sometimes able to intercept terrorist recruitment and the response of young people, but it is parents’ responsibility to teach young people to make wise decisions, including those of political outlook.

(c) Increase in crime


  • What are the real statistics and facts as to the increase or decrease in crime since 1994?
  • What is being done to stem the perceived boom in crime in both business and personal spheres?
  • What is the police response to violent crime and the community justice which may follow?


Over the past five to ten year period, there has been a downward trend in crime, despite small percentage increases in specific crimes, such as murder. This means that the crime rate is decreasing.

South Africans are therefore safer today. What needs to be emphasised is that the nature of crime is seasonal, increasing during the festive season. In addition, crime is related to economic challenges, which influences the nature of crimes being committed: “an empty stomach knows no law”. Furthermore, crime also needs to be seen within a global context - crimes are committed all over the world.

Unfortunately, the challenge is the violent nature of crime in South Africa, whether the brutality of farm murders, armed robbery, politically motivated violence, or xenophobic violence. These violent patterns of behaviour (a so-called violent psyche) are a broader social problem which requires debate and reflection among South Africans. There needs to be dialogue about the root causes of crime in a South Africa where violence and conflict have characterised our history for over 350 years: there have been colonial wars; there have been stereotypes about certain tribes and their war-like nature; there has been political violence between ANC and IFP, between ANC and the apartheid government; there has been a proliferation of illegal weapons. There needs to be rehabilitation and debriefing after this war-like period South Africa has been through, so that human life is once more perceived as sacred.

Changing the nature of crime in South Africa also requires a serious interrogation of methods for fighting crime, which must include the development of sound organisational structures, particularly community-based structures and community policing forums. It is important to recognise that there are pockets of excellence, where neighbourhood police stations are serving their communities well, through communication with residents and visible policing, leading to a reduction in crime rates in those areas and a concomitant sense of safety in the community. This kind of best practice needs to be emulated across all operational areas, so that there is evenness and consistency in police services.

(d) Poor police-community relationships


  • Can South African business rely on a police presence to protect the business community?
  • Can South African communities rely on a trustworthy police presence to protect them?
  • How are the police going about regaining communities’ respect?


Under apartheid, the relationship between police and communities was one of conflict, with an absolute breakdown of mutual respect and trust. This relationship has transformed since 1994, but it is still not without its challenges. The question of policing and human interaction is an evolving subject.

It is only through the police service reaching out to communities, helping to develop community-based structures, as mentioned in (c) above, and cultivating a culture of community action and service, that police and community can treat each other with mutual trust and respect, simply as citizens of South Africa working side by side.

A negative image of the police can only be improved through engagement, interaction and dialogue with communities through which their trust and increased confidence can be regained.

(d) Police responses to xenophobia


  • Is Operation Fiela not “too little, too late” in terms of xenophobic violence?
  • Is Operation Fiela a return to militarisation of the police force to deal with crime?


Operation Fiela’s organised raids are the government’s response to restoring the rule of law after the recent spike of xenophobic violence in Johannesburg and Durban. This programme will continue for various reasons: the purpose of the raids was particularly to disarm people, as well as to stop xenophobic violence. In addition, immigration laws are being tightened and immigration is being monitored.

However, along with Operation Fiela, the challenge is also to stabilise the way social interaction takes place between South Africans and immigrants. There is a mind-set of xenophobia in our communities, for instance, a misconception that general dealers are all owned by foreigners, which leads to all kinds of prejudices. This is again a matter for community development and interaction.
(e) Training and development


  • What kind of training are constables getting?
  • Are young police officers being taught to take pride in what their uniform symbolises?
  • How are leadership qualities being developed in the police?
  • Why has there been no response to an offer of free training interventions?


The issue of training is an ongoing and critical one for the police, and feedback is continually informing an improvement on rolling out training. For the unique South African situation, training cannot simply be confined to firearm competency or tactical issues. However, there are infrastructural gaps and developmental challenges which make both policing and police training difficult. Unfortunately, this can impact on moral conduct and professionalism.

The police are currently going through a transformation and repositioning process, where defects, including those in leadership qualities, are being explored. Further input in terms of leadership are welcome, as this could benefit policing in a broader context, particularly the suggestion of training interventions on which the Minister had not been briefed and to which he has therefore not responded.

(f) Lack of police stations


  • Why are there not adequate police resources in all areas?
  • What criteria do the police use in developing satellite police stations?


The question of infrastructure is to be raised at a series of two-day sessions between the Minister and MECs of provinces where transformation will be explored. The allocation of resources or the so-called resource allocation guide will be on the agenda.

The building of new infrastructure, including satellite police stations, is determined by population figures, distance between police stations, distance members of the public need to travel to access police services, as well as the transport infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas.

It is in the development of police infrastructure that investment by businesses becomes relevant. One proposal is the public private partnership, for instance, in the building of new police stations. This must be seen in the context of community and stakeholder participation, working together to improve social circumstances for all.

4. Potential impact on economy

There are various ways in which the police services can impact on the South African business community. A first area is the continuing threat of crime to facilities, vehicles, and workers, which leads to a loss of productivity. Crimes motivated by political elements, including illegal strikes or xenophobic violence, have an even greater impact on the physical safety of staff - again impacting production and service delivery. The South African business community relies on a police service that has adequate infrastructure, a visible presence and can offer protection to its citizens so as to continue its business activities.

A second area of impact on the business community is on the opportunities around privatisation. However, the government’s first approach is to enhance existing government structures. Furthermore, any public private partnerships will be considered only within the ANC policy framework on PPPs, and in terms of community and business participation, and to the benefit of all.

5. Concluding observations

The continuing positive transformation of the police into a service-based, community orientated organisation relies on the involvement of both citizens and business in holding the police accountable and cooperating in meeting objectives.

Working together, South African communities and business can be assured of a police presence worthy of respect and confidence in its ability to protect and serve.

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