Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

South Africa: Information on whether political unrest in 1993 and 1994 has affected the ability of the police to deal with criminal matters

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 1994
Citation / Document Symbol ZAF18817.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, South Africa: Information on whether political unrest in 1993 and 1994 has affected the ability of the police to deal with criminal matters, 1 October 1994, ZAF18817.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab4e4.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

According to a professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa who specializes in South African politics, political unrest has for decades affected the ability of the South African police to deal with criminal matters involving Black South Africans (31 Oct. 1994). The professor stated that the readiness to deal with crime is racially determined and crime is dealt with according to the location, the perpetrators and the victims (ibid.).

The professor further explained that the police in South Africa have for decades underwritten the apartheid policy of the state. However, during the 1993 drive toward multi-racial democracy it became necessary to transcend these traditional South African policing priorities and methods (ibid.). Within the context of the new expectations, the police were "professionally unprepared" to deal with the demands for dismantling apartheid (ibid.). The police did not have the appropriate human resources to deal with the new situation (ibid.).

The above information was corroborated by four additional sources, including a professor of political science at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a professor of history at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, a senior analyst with Global Exchange in San Francisco and a senior program associate at the Africa Fund in New York City (31 Oct. 1994). The Gettysburg professor, who specializes in social and political conflict in southern Africa, explained that the pre-occupation with preserving the apartheid state has compromised the ability of the South African police to deal with crime in the country (31 Oct. 1994).

The professor stated that the system was designed to protect White South African privilege and because race is a determining factor in South African social, political and economic policy, problems of crime within the Black community were perceived as a "nuisance" and little public funding was allocated to policing in these areas (ibid.). The imbalance in police priorities was the result of decades of political neglect in which the apartheid state viewed public expenditures on Black South Africans as a "waste" (ibid.). The unrest in 1993 and 1994 did not create the traditional orientation of policing, because the imbalance is the result of a deliberate state policy (ibid.). The professor stated that lack of resources has nothing to do with it. South Africa is a rich country and is capable of providing balanced and fair policing for its citizens, if it wanted it (ibid.).

According to the University of Florida professor, who specializes in the history of southern Africa, the South African police was designed to be a paramilitary and not a civilian police force, particularly in the Black areas (ibid.). On the question of whether the institution can be "transformed" into a force capable of performing normal police protection functions for all South Africans, the professor believes the indications "look good" but it is too early to arrive at a definite conclusion (ibid.).

According to the senior program associate in charge of human rights and trade unions in Africa at the Africa Fund, a non-governmental organization dedicated to democracy and economic justice in Africa, the South African police is a victim of its own history. The apartheid state was not meant to provide good, adequate and fair civilian policing for Black South Africans, and the unrest of 1993 and 1994 unrest did not change that orientation (ibid.).

The senior analyst with Global Exchange, a non-governmental organization that seeks to educate the American public and influence American policy toward the countries of Africa and the Caribbean, added that South Africa is operating under a temporary five-year constitution (31 Oct. 1994). The biggest challenge facing the force is to provide fair, effective and balanced policing for all South Africans (ibid.). The senior analyst believes the world may have to wait for a permanent constitution in order to determine the nature of police powers in the new South Africa and what this will mean for policing in a multi-racial republic (ibid.).

The new constitution must also determine a new relationship between the police and the military, and between the police and the judiciary (ibid.). The senior analyst explained that the South African police historically have had a close working relationship with the military and the judiciary. However, the new constitution must terminate that relationship if the police are to gain the confidence of the Black South African community (ibid.). For basic information on the South African Police (SAP), please refer to the attachment.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Professor of history specializing in the history of southern Africa, University of Florida, Gainesville. 31 October 1994. Telephone interview.

Professor of political science specializing in South African politics, Carleton University, Ottawa. 31 October 1994. Telephone interview.

Professor of political science and history at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa. 31 October 1994. Telephone interview.

Senior analyst, Global Exchange, San Francisco. 31 October 1994. Telephone interview.

Senior program associate specializing in human rights and trade unions, Africa Fund, New York City. 31 October 1994. Telephone interview.

Attachment

Kurian, George Thomas. 1989. World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Penal Systems. New York: Facts on File, pp. 343-46.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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