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Police confirm nationwide probe into alleged corrupt recruitment of trainees

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    Nat Quinn
    The 12-month Police Development Learning Training Programme is designed to equip recruits with the necessary skills before they are absorbed as constables into the SAPS. It is a prerequisite before recruits can be employed by the service.
    The SAPS has responded to claims in a Daily Maverick report that recruits had paid for admission to SA police colleges. The claims are supported by a leaked voice message from a Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) whistle-blower who raised red flags. Daily Maverick has the voice message in its possession.
    National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said: “SAPS views these allegations as serious and this confirms that a nationwide investigation is currently under way.
    “Anyone found guilty of any unlawful activity in this instance be it as a SAPS recruitment officer or a trainee will be dealt with decisively as SAPS has no room for corruption within the organisation.”
    Read more in Daily Maverick: Fears that scores of recruits paid for entry into SA police colleges
    The probe by SAPS into these allegations is being carried out at accredited academies which include All Saints, Bhisho, Graaff Reinet and Mthatha — all in the Eastern Cape; Chatsworth and Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal; and Tshwane, Bishop Lavis and Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape. SAPS has already interviewed recruits in Oudtshoorn.
    Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Tuesday at the Western Cape SAPS inauguration of the Safer Festive Season, that 10,000 recruits who had completed the training programme would march out on to the streets as police constables on 15 December.
    However, in light of the probe, SAPS may bring criminal charges against thousands of these recruits if they are found to have entered the training colleges illegally.
    Police unions claim that SAPS personnel who handled recruitment allegedly took money from potential recruits in exchange for a spot at one of the police academies.
    By allegedly paying bribes, recruits would have circumvented the standard screening, medical and fitness examinations. They may also not have provided evidence of having a matriculation certificate or an equivalent qualification, submitted to a psychological and integrity evaluation, or shown that they had not been convicted of a crime.
    Police unions in the meantime are prepared to defend newly hired officers charged with crimes. As soon as training begins, recruits become union members and as a result, the unions have a duty to members facing charges from SAPS.
    President of the Independent Policing Union of South Africa (Ipusa), Bethuel Nkuna, reiterated that SAPS should do more than simply name and shame the recruits and said he strongly supported the investigation at SA police colleges.
    He said the investigation should go further and name the recruiters accused of pressuring candidates into paying for a spot in the police colleges.
    Corruption and deceiving recruits into bribing their way into colleges, he said, would continue as long as dishonest recruitment officers were still employed. This needed to be stopped in its tracks, said Nkuna.
    “Ipusa visited a number of police colleges throughout the training programme and hired some of the students to work in police stations. The recruits are members of the various police unions and we have an obligation to defend them once they are criminally charged,” Nkuna said.
    According to the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), it will release a statement if one of its members has been formally charged by the SAPS and then take action accordingly.
    South Africa’s need to up its safety and security game was highlighted by violent unrest in parts of the country in July 2021. The nation’s security agencies were caught unaware while their capacity was allegedly also undermined from within.
    To address the lack of capacity, Deputy Minister of Police Cassel Mathale indicated that the SAPS was on a massive recruitment drive in 2022 as part of the move to bolster the organisation.
    During a SAPS presentation, which mainly dealt with police performance between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, Cele addressed several issues, including that of overworked officers.
    Read more in Daily Maverick: “ ‘A catastrophe’ — Minister Bheki Cele describes shocking work conditions for SA police
    Cele further indicated that the number of police personnel in service had dropped from about 196,000 members in 2010 to an estimated 175,000 in 2022 — despite the growth in South Africa’s general population.
    In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic affected the SAPS, including the training and recruiting of members.
    In an effort to remedy this apparent recruitment crisis, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the hiring of 12,000 police officials in his 2022 State of the Nation Address. This was an increase on the figure of 10,000 new members previously announced by Mathale in November 2021.
    SAPS’s massive recruitment campaign for more boots on the streets was criticised in an article by David Bruce, an independent researcher on violence, policing and public security, published in Daily Maverick:
    Delving into the SAPS recruitment model, Bruce told Daily Maverick that the quality of decisions and processes at various levels was failing within a broken system.
    The failure, he pointed out, could be taken back to the transition to democracy in the mid-’90s and, to a large degree, the system had stagnated.
    “Essentially what the system [training programme] is doing at this point is simply reproducing itself, despite the fact that in the world we live in there are new dimensions to the problem of crime.
    “The South African Police Service has a certain kind of formula for responding to these problems and basically at the top level the key problem is that we don’t have the capacity to provide a coherent direction to our policing system,” he said.
    The SAPS, Bruce points out, is still following a generic recruitment formula without effectively maintaining training and selection systems.
    Bruce also questioned whether the SAPS even has sufficient human resource capacity to uphold and implement necessary selection and training standards.
    “It’s reasonable to assume that those systems are not capable of doing the right kind of selection. Right across at every level of the system there are questions about whether the system is functioning in an optimal way in order to ensure that people with optimal skills are performing the roles,” Bruce said. DM
    The programme’s goal is to empower newly appointed trainees to:
    1. Employ a variety of legal and policing abilities to safeguard and assist community members in accordance with the South African Constitution.
    2. Offer a more efficient service that would boost community satisfaction and put trainees in a better position to carry out their purpose of establishing a secure environment for everyone living in South Africa.
    Structure of the BPDP entails:
    1. Foundation phase focusing on acquiring necessary knowledge and skills.
    2. Weaponry instruction that includes disassembling, cleaning a firearm and target shooting using a 9mm pistol, a shotgun and an R5 rifle are all included.
    3. First aid instruction that covers cardiopulmonary resuscitation, drowning and suffocation procedures (CPR).
    4. In the event of crowd management, what to do and how to respond.
    5. Addressing domestic violence and gender-based violence.
    6. Assessment of crime scenes, active cases, and statement-taking training which includes dismantling and cleaning a gun.
    For as long as an officer is in service, training is a part of their responsibilities. Programmes for advanced training include:
    1. Specialised training in a variety of professions, such as forensics, dog units, and detective work.
    2. Expert firearms instruction.
    3. Instruction in hand-to-hand combat.
    4. Look into serious offences.
    Requirements for recruit enrolment at SA police colleges:
    1. Must be a citizen of South Africa.
    2. Be between the ages of 18 and 3o.
    3. Possess a senior certificate or an equivalent degree, of which he or she must provide documentation.
    4. Have English and one other official language proficiency.
    5. Have never been convicted of a crime.
    6. Take a medical exam and pass it.
    7. Complete a health questionnaire and a physical fitness evaluation.
    8. Submit to a psychological and integrity evaluation that the National Commissioner deems appropriate.
    9. Be ready to serve and receive training anywhere in the Republic of South Africa.
    The Basic Police Development Learning Programme is taught at approved SAPS academies designated for this purpose. All Saints, Bhisho, Graaff Reinet, Mthatha, Chatsworth and Ulundi in Kwazulu-Natal, Tshwane, Bishop Lavis and Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape are among the academies that the SAPS maintains. DM
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