Crime intelligence 'eroded and hollowed out', says Cele, but promises improvements are coming

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Police minister Bheki Cele says there is a commitment to ensure management of information within the police is strengthened.
Police minister Bheki Cele says there is a commitment to ensure management of information within the police is strengthened.
Image: File photo

The need to clean up and bolster crime intelligence — which has been “eroded and hollowed out” over the years — has never been more important and more urgent, police minister Bheki Cele said.

He said the government was committed to ensuring that the management of information within the police was strengthened, and that this could be achieved through the decentralisation of crime intelligence to station level.

Cele was addressing a National Council of Provinces plenary on Tuesday on the public violence, looting and destruction of property in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal last month.

Questions have been asked about whether intelligence services should have anticipated the unrest and whether measures should then have been taken to stop it.

Addressing the plenary, Cele said there was a commitment from the government to ensure the management of information within the police was strengthened.

“We believe we can achieve this over the medium and long term, through the decentralisation of crime intelligence to station level. This then can also allow for the strengthening of the analysis capacity through training and skills development,” Cele said.

Cele said this would go a long way in the establishment of a strategic threat-assessment analysis capacity to address strategic concerns, starting in communities.

“Over the next three years, SAPS in conjunction with municipalities will invest even more on digital policing methods. The use of technology to fight crime will be intensified through further operationalisation of safer districts, which will see the establishment of operational command centres and implementation of drone policing at district level. Smarter policing must and will be the new normal.”

Cele said the police continued to add more members to the 47 provincial public order policing (POP) units, as well as reserve units in Durban, Cape Town, Mbombela and Pretoria.

“The ongoing strengthening of these POP units will mean they are always at hand to manage community protests, including the training and equipping of members to deal with crowd management.”

Cele said the actual human resource capability of POPs is 5,892 and ideally for the 2021/2022 financial year should be more than 12,000.

“In this regard, the recruitment in this unit remains a priority,” he said.

Deputy minister of state security Zizi Kodwa said the July incidents had given the SSA an opportunity to open a conversation about the limitations brought about by its mandate in dealing with future threats.

“The SSA has a constitutional mandate to monitor these socioeconomic issues to forewarn the government. Maybe we should ask a difficult question at this stage, whether it is enough for an intelligence service in the modern era to simply forewarn,” he said.

Kodwa said the issue of capacity in the state security agency and the security cluster must also be addressed.

“Over the past few years, the security cluster has been subjected to budget cuts which have hampered our capacity to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of SA and, most importantly to ensure that South Africans feel and are safe.”

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