Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee,
Members of Parliament,
Members of the SAPS and its Top Leadership,
All Stakeholders participating today,
Chairperson, thank you very much for inviting the Ministry of Police to this Summit.
As I stand in front of you this morning, I can vividly recall my lamentations made during a programme I attended at the SAPS Paarl University in August 2014.
That previous day, I had attended a Symposium on “the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB in the workplace targeting the Senior Management” in Pretoria.
Unfortunately, none of the Top SAPS Management attended as they all attended a non-eventful training workshop at Paarl University.
I told the now suspended National Commissioner that, the symposium they missed could have benefitted the SAPS members more if the intended audience (Senior Management of the SAPS) had committed itself to attend.
Because, as decision-makers, they would have been obligated to take note of all those expert and scientific inputs and deliberations from different invited role-players; and would have been obligated to mainstream those recommendations to review policies for the strengthening of the SAPS Employee Health and Wellness.
Chairperson, I went on to indicate to the Top Management that, we must not allow ourselves to be oblivious to the fact that the employee health and wellness of the entire career of an active police officer, from recruitment, retention to retirement, is of utmost if not of fundamental importance for the survival of this organization, the SAPS.
Chairperson, whilst SAPS seemed bent to focus on developmental strategies for the Senior Management, they must not forget that the survival and efficiency of the South African Police Service solely depends on our lower-ranked police officers operating from the police stations, which are front lines of service delivery to our communities.
What I am emphasizing on is that, every strategy that we come up with to improve policing, (whether educational; societal; spiritual), must be intrinsically linked to the holistic health and wellness of our active police officers.
Chairperson, I am dwelling on this previous experience of 2014, because I don’t want us to do the same mistake again. In fact, my mind went into a panic state when I saw the programme of this Seminar.
I anguished to the fact that, in 2011 we had a summit on Police Killings; in 2013 we had a summit on police suicide, and as I have just alluded to, in 2014, we had the 1st on “the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB in the workplace targeting the Senior Management”.
But, Chairperson, in spite of all that I mentioned I must say upfront, that I am very happy that this Summit has been called by Parliament itself.
Because, the experience I had with the Summit this same Portfolio Committee hosted in 2015 on Firearms, and its deliberations and implementation thereof, has completely dispel any notion that no action will flow from this Seminar.
I can, with pride say, from that National Firearms Summit, many tangible developments emerged. Most importantly, the SAPS took the Firearms Registry as a critical priority, and many strides have been made since then.
A tangible report was made available, and deliberations were being followed up, and some being immediately implemented, such as beefing up the resources in the Firearms Registry.
I am thus pleading with all of us here in this room to ensure that there will be a fortunate parallel emerging to that of last year’s Summit.
Let this Seminar be yet another gathering of committed and compassionate stakeholders who will come up with concrete time-framed deliberations that will improve policing in South Africa.
As the Ministry of Police we regard these deliberations as very important, because the lives of our police officers are dependent on them.
Especially, now that one has been given yet another bleak picture on the state of wellness of our police officers, by the SAPS Top Management.
For instance, in the POLICE MEDICAL SCHEME (POLMED) Programme, there are 27246 police officers and their dependants enrolled in this programme.
We are informed as the Ministry of Police that, 88% of this total number (27246), was enrolled for the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS in the Financial Year 2014/2015, and the highest affected age group is between 34 and 44 years.
89% of our active police officers and their dependants enrolled in this programme are also depressed.
Vehicle accidents are the highest cause of unnatural deaths of our active officers. And, to cap it all, in less than 12 months, we had already lost 88 active officers to murder/ambush in 2015. If this not bleak, then I can further say, it is a catastrophic state of affairs, and all of us need to act faster, together.
Fortunately, already in 2014, in the Budget Vote Speech, we mentioned that, during the Governance Term 2014-2019, we would prioritize the wellness of the police officer in its entirety.
We even requested the Portfolio Committee on Police to assist the Department to lead the restructuring of various outdated policies of the SAPS.
As the Police Leadership, we are reiterating this request to you more than ever now, as we are in earnest to ensure that, there is a concerted collective focus to improve the functioning, the operations, and the image of the South African Police Service.
In this instance, the SAPS Executive has adopted the theme for the Financial Year 2016/2017 as: “Back to Basics: Towards a Safer Tomorrow”.
In addition, the Minister of Police has appointed the Farlam Commission Committee of Experts to implement the recommendations made in the Commissioner’s Report to professionalize the SAPS.
Complementing this work of the Farlam Committee, is the soon to be elected Transformation and Institutional Task Team of Experts, which will be led and chaired by the Deputy Minister of Police. This Task Team will be the epitome of inroads to transform the police officer health and wellness in its entirety.
The Transformation and Institutional Reform Task Team will be tasked to review some of the draconian policies that detriment and negate the police officers’ work environment; their living conditions; their career progression; and their dependants’ livelihood when they retire or pass on.
We thus invite you Members of Parliament of this Committee to support this endeavour, by supporting the Ministry of Police with the following concrete activities:
- Recommend names of experts in Organizational Development that can form part of the Transformation and Institutional Reform Task Team of Experts.
- Support the Ministry of Police in identifying all national policies/prescripts/instructions/orders within the SAPS that need urgent review/repeal to transform the SAPS, and enhance the wellness of the police officer
- Guide the Ministry of Police in aligning the SAPS Employee Health and Wellness Programme with the National Framework of Employee Health and Wellness.
- And, help the Ministry of Police with a comprehensive research work in the benchmarking of best practices in BRICS countries, and with other progressive country allies such as Botswana, Kenya, Senegal, Sweden and Canada.
Chairperson, the SAPS Leadership is fearlessly focusing to transform the SAPS into a professional, service delivery oriented Department, a vision also envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).
We are committed to supporting the Acting National Commissioner in his quest to turn around areas of under-performance through the National Management Interventions Approach.
All we request from you, Portfolio Committee on Police, is for you to provide us with that Legislative and Oversight might of Parliament, by ensuring that all our blue prints of Transformation and Institutional Development are in line with our Constitution and in alignment with our people’s aspirations for a safe and stable South Africa.
In conclusion, Chairperson, the Ministry of Police will never rest until our men and women in blue are given the support they deserve In order for them to be able to fight crime and corruption effectively.
We surely cannot expect our police officers to be productive if we don’t look at their wellness and their families’ wellness.
The Task Team that will be chaired by the Deputy Minister of Police will deal with the issues of boosting their morale in looking into areas of promotion policies, housing policies, transport policies, pension processes where we have to actively support the families when they have retired or passed on.
Let us take the stress away from our police officers so that they can focus on fighting crime.
I thank you all.