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Survey shows public trust in police is at record low

More than half of South Africans believe the country’s police officials are corrupt. This is according to the findings of an Afrobarometer survey, released on Friday, which also found that trust in the police has hit historic lows.

The survey results come in the wake of media reports that national police commissioner Khehla Sitole has been served with a notice of intention to suspend. On Thursday, the presidency confirmed the reports and that President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote to Sitole last month in connection with allegations that he failed to assist the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

In January, the Pretoria high court found that Sitole and two of his lieutenants, Francinah Vuma and Leonard Tsumane, breached their duties by failing to furnish Ipid with information and documents relating to its investigations into tender fraud within police ranks.

“Popular trust in the South African Police Service (Saps) has declined by about half over the past decade,” Afrobarometer said in a statement.

“Most citizens think most police officials are corrupt, and a small number of citizens report having to pay bribes to obtain police assistance or avoid problems with the police. The Saps has been plagued by scandals over the past decade,” it said.

Four of the country’s seven post-apartheid national police commissioners, the release notes, have been dismissed under a cloud of controversy.

According to the survey, only 26% of South Africans say they trust the police “somewhat” or “a lot”. This is about half as many as in 2011 (49%). Distrust of the police is at its highest level of the past two decades, the survey notes. Over 73% of surveyed citizens say they trust the police “just a little” or “not at all”. 

More than half (55%) of South Africans believe that “most” or “all” police officials are involved in corruption, the worst assessment recorded over the past decade. 

Despite this perception, of those citizens who reported requesting assistance from the police in the past 12 months, only a few reported having to pay a bribe to receive assistance from police officers (15%) or to avoid a problem with the police (14%).

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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