/ 18 January 2008

Zille warns of ‘rising tide’ of police corruption

There is a ”rising tide” of corruption in the South African Police Service [SAPS], Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille alleged on Friday.

”Minister of Safety and Security [Charles Nqakula] and the leadership of the SAPS need to find the political will to acknowledge the grave threat that police corruption poses to our country,” she said in her weekly SA Today newsletter, posted on the DA’s website.

Zille said one of the main reasons the fight against drugs in South Africa was so ineffective was that the police were protecting drug lords.

Referring to the charges against police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, she said many South Africans would not have been particularly surprised to learn of allegations he was being paid protection money by a drug kingpin.

”After all, that merely reflects their daily experience at grassroots level, where distraught families of drug addicts are convinced that druglords are being protected by corrupt local policemen in return for bribes.

”In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, the use of ‘sugars’ -‒ a deadly mixture of low-grade heroin, cocaine and dagga — is spreading rapidly throughout Durban and the province, largely due to the alleged cooperation between drug dealers and crooked SAPS officers.

”According to a former addict in Chatsworth, drug dealers pay what they call a ‘tax’ to certain members of the SAPS in return for police protection.”

The situation was similar in the Western Cape, where it was blindingly obvious that drug dealers were able to operate with impunity because they were paying off the police.

”It is common knowledge that drug lords are tipped off before police raids, and are protected in a host of other ways in return for pay-offs.”

Zille said when the police arrested her and other members of the community during a legal and peaceful anti-drug march in Mitchell’s Plain last year, she had experienced first hand the police hostility towards those who are taking a stand against drugs.

”It was a surreal experience to be marching from one drug den to another [which often look like villas compared to the humble houses around them]. I asked myself again and again: how is it possible that dealers can continue to ply an illegal trade that is destroying an entire generation of young people, under the very noses of the police?”

Zille said the Selebi case made the answer obvious.

”Police protection of druglords is the key reason why the fight against the local drug trade is so ineffective.”

Most telling was the acute perception of police corruption among the police themselves.

”According to last year’s Institute for Security Studies survey of the police, 92% agreed that police corruption is a ‘serious challenge’, and 54% believed that corruption had increased in the previous four years.

”Over 70% stated that most members were aware of other members’ involvement in criminal activity, while 68% believed that most officers would not report a member they knew to be corrupt.”

Zille said there remained a great many policemen and women across the country who remained steadfastly committed to the battle against crime.

”These hard-working officers are increasingly undermined by the culture of graft and self-interest which is causing the public to lose faith in the force.

”I often ask myself: what can we do to help the many honest police officers to fight back against the rising tide of corruption and turn the SAPS into the force for good that it should be,” she said. – Sapa