Police in KwaZulu-Natal have spent R340,561,048.63 settling claims related to wrongful arrests, the KZN MEC for Community Safety and Liaison, Bheki Ntuli, has revealed.
This was part of the response to parliamentary questions from IFP MPL, Blessed Gwala, on how much has been paid out by the police relating to unlawful arrests, between the period of 1 January 2014 to 31 October 2019. There are 13 416 cases of wrongful arrest by the SAPS during the same period.
The IFP is concerned about the huge amount of money paid out by the SAPS due to unlawful arrests. Detaining someone without cause is against the law in South Africa, yet the country’s police continue to do this. These illegal detentions are an abuse of power and a blatant violation of people’s rights. It’s ironic that the very institutions that are supposed to protect people are causing harm. The police need to know that they are not above the law; they should be penalised like anyone else. If there are any officers found to be making false arrests, they should be prosecuted.
When the KZN MEC for Community Safety was asked about what plans are in place to prevent wrongful arrests, it became clear that the MEC seems to have no concrete plan to address this issue. Further, there is no plan to take action against police officers found to have been involved in wrongful arrests. The MEC said this issue is discussed by the police at their management meetings, so as to create greater awareness among members. No mention was made about how many police officers have been dismissed due to their involvement in wrongful arrests.
The IFP understands that with crime being prevalent in South Africa, the SAPS often have to make quick decisions in an attempt to be pro-active, and, yes, mistakes happen. However, it is an entirely different story when the police do not conduct a thorough investigation, display blatant negligence or arrest an innocent person. There are other contributing factors too: often officers are under-trained and don’t adhere to policing procedures, which results in them breaking the law or violating the SAPS Code of Conduct.
It is a gross violation of section 10 of the Constitution – which recognises that everyone has inherent dignity and upholds the right to have that dignity respected and protected. Moreover, section 12 acknowledges the right to freedom and security of every person, and the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause; and not to be detained without trial.
The amount paid by the SAPS on civil claims is a shocking indictment on the state of policing in KwaZulu-Natal. Urgent action is needed to deal decisively with the issue of wrongful arrests. Failure to eradicate this scourge will make people lose confidence in the police and their investigative skills will be questioned.
Therefore, the IFP urges the KZN Police Commissioner, Lt General Khombinkosi Jula, to tell the public what steps are being taken to deal with wrongful arrests.
Mr Blessed Gwala, MPL
IFP KZN Provincial Spokesperson for Community Safety and Liaison
078 290 5842