The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) investigation into allegations that members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) are involved in the stock theft syndicate operating in the Senekal-area in the Free State and call on them to expand the investigation to encompasses more rural communities in South Africa.
The DA has been reliably informed from our numerous oversight inspections to various rural communities through the years that SAPS officers are often linked to the crimes they are supposed to investigate.
Rural communities cannot reasonably be expected to trust the police to keep them safe when they are alleged to be part of the perpetrators committing crimes against community members.
Recently, the DA wrote to genl. Khehla Sitole, the National Police Commissioner, regarding concerns in Tlakgameng-community in the North West and requesting the implementation of the SAPS Rural Safety Strategy there. Farmers and members of the community there regularly experience stock theft, poaching, vandalism, illegal land grabs, illegal grazing and intimidation.
The farmers in Normandien in KwaZulu-Natal brought similar complaints to an imbizo with Police Minister Bheki Cele in September. On that occasion the Minister told farmers in isiZulu that they must not complain if they get hurt – an allegation the Minister has since denied and blamed on a poor translation in a Sunday newspaper, but that have been confirmed by various sources present at the meeting the day.
While Minister Cele seemed to listen to farmers in the Free State at a meeting yesterday, there will never be true change unless he shows the political will and a change of attitude towards rural communities. According to a joint report by SAPS and StatsSA there were 28 418 reports of stock theft between 1 April 2019 and March 2020. Yet, the Minister was unable or unwilling to answer farmers’ questions in Normandien and had the audacity to accuse them of arrogance.
Conditions in SAPS will never change if the Minister does not change his attitude. It is exactly this kind of behaviour on the part of Minister Cele, which trickle down to the entire police service.
Yesterday, my colleague Andrew Whitfield MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee of the National Assembly to investigate criminality and corruption at SAPS.
South Africans are tired of the show of outrage and sympathy when a life is lost in a brutal and tragic way. We are tired of Minister visiting communities and promising the world just to negate those promises the first chance they get. Why must someone die in order for Minister Cele to get to grips with conditions on farms? When will action be taken to prevent these vicious deaths?
The DA will closely monitor the promises made by Minister Cele in the Free State yesterday to see if action will follow his words, or if they will ring hollow.