Manuel announces R5,4bn for fight against crime

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced during his annual budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday that the government will be spending R5,4-billion in the fight against crime.

The allocation, the majority of which will go towards overhauling antiquated forensic and investigative capabilities of the police, is in support of the implementation of government’s recent review of the criminal justice system.

The review, which is being led by Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Johnny De Lange, revealed a picture of a struggling and fragmented justice system teetering towards dysfunction.

The majority of the money, which De Lange previously told the Mail & Guardian was about R5-billion, will be spent on “interventions aimed at improving criminal justice services”. This will include the creation of an integrated DNA and fingerprint database, which should also link databases from Home Affairs, the Department of Transport and the police’s criminal database to one another.

The South African Police Service’s (SAPS) detective services will also be beefed up to work closely with prosecutors in order to deal with the reported 700 000-case backlog. The detectives will, in cooperation with prosecutors, vet cases for trial readiness.

Information technology capacity will also be upgraded under the plan in order to allow for the tracking of cases from reporting to the sentencing of suspects. The plan will also include an incentive and retention programme for all key staff within the forensic and investigative branches of the criminal justice system. The upgrading of key electronic equipment such as vehicles and radios will also take place.

Manuel announced that 21 000 more police officers will be hitting the streets by 2011. Then R5,4-billion figure also covers police spending on ensuring readiness for the 2010 World Cup via new high-tech equipment such as surveillance planes and riot gear.

The money will also be used to implement the long-awaited Child Protection Bill, which sets out to protect minors in police custody. The legislation was introduced in 2002 and has yet to be passed by Parliament. Correctional services will also share a portion of the budget, which will be used towards the building of new prisons.

Institute of Security Studies analyst Dr Johan Burger has welcomed the budget speech and added there were “no surprises there”. This was merely a continuation, Burger said, of a long-term view by government on spending for the fight against crime.

He said that Manuel was merely ensuring that the police are equipped to deal with the “deficiencies highlighted by the De Lange investigation”, continuing with the police expansion plan by adding more police numbers, ensuring that the country was ready for the 2010 World Cup and building more prisons.

“This to me was an enabling budget,” said Burger.

The only thing, added Burger, that caught his attention was the increased projection for the number of police officers by 2011 which, according to Burger, Manuel initially said would be 201 000 last year versus this year’s 204 000 officers.

He, however, lauded the move as it would bring South Africa’s ratio of police to citizens to world-class levels.

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