South Africa News

ISS: Millions paid out for civil claims against cops concerning

Concerns have been raised over the hundreds of millions of rands that the South African Police Service (Saps) pays out for civil claims every year.

This comes on the back of the suspension of eight members of the police’s VIP protection unit who were involved in last week’s Johannesburg N1 attack of civilians.

Lawyers representing the victims of the harrowing assault confirmed their clients were either already beginning the process of taking legal action against the police or were considering doing so.

But these claims, even if they all went ahead, would represent just a sliver of the thousands that would likely be brought in 2023.

According to the police’s latest annual report, Saps faced 13,000 new civil claims in 2021/2022, and forked out more than R470 million for close to 5,000 civil claims during that period.

The Institute for Security Studies’ Gareth Newham said this was cause for concern.

“We should certainly be concerned at the amount of money Saps is paying out to victims of proven unlawful police behaviour.”

Newham said the amount paid out on an annual basis had been on the increase for the last decade, and that this was an indicator of a lack of accountability.

He said the Saps’s internal disciplinary system collapsed.

“In 2016, they were able to hold close to 6,000 disciplinary hearings a year and that’s now dropped to 1,300 last year. [Of] those hearings, the most likely outcome is a slap on the wrist.

“Generally, it’s a verbal or written warning. The least likely outcome of a disciplinary hearing is the subject officer will be fired.”

He also pointed to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s low success rates and blamed the increase on the fact that both the internal and external accountability mechanisms in place didn’t work properly.

-EWN

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Thembi Seete dances in the snow

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