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July unrest: Police minister tells SAHRC about budgetary constraints, inadequate resources

26 February 2022

Budgetary constraints and insufficient resources were two issues Police Minister of Police Bheki Cele testified about this week, during the last leg of a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing into the unrest that caused destruction and led to widespread looting in South Africa in July last year.

Cele said the police needed to be better equipped with human and other resources, including investments in technology, to combat crime.

According to the minister, equipment worth more than R100 million, which would have better prepared police for social media interventions, was not used.

But red tape hampered the signing off of the equipment, the SAHRC heard.

"There is a law which says that the police minister must request that security equipment be released to the police from the justice minister, who must then consult with the defence minister, the state security minister and the Ministry of Communications," Cele said.

Officials would have been able to use the technology during the unrest disturbance to monitor social media algorithms, track taglines, manage and oversee activities within a specific location if the equipment was authorised and certified in time, Cele added.

Cele added that the police were also dealing with funding constraints and insufficient resources at the time.

SAHRC provincial manager, advocate Lloyd Lotz, put it to the minister that amid budgetary constraints, Crime Intelligence resourcing should not have been separated from that of the police.

But Cele said there was no doubt that the budgets of both the South African National Defence Force and the police far exceeded normal levels.

Since 2016, instead of gaining revenue, the SAPS lost about R34 billion.

"It makes you feel as if you need to maximise every cent while making the rand move longer," Cele added.

He read out a letter from the national police commissioner, who sought authorisation to reuse unspent funds.

The Secret Service account division of Crime Intelligence accepted the request, and in compliance with Section 2a of the Secret Service Account Act 1978, the National Treasury had no objection to the division's request to retain an amount of R129 million of the total unspent funds of R138 million for reutilisation in 2020 and 2021.

It was then requested that the unspent R9 million be paid back to the national revenue. This letter was signed on 17 May 2021.

According to Cele, it was impossible to believe that there was no money during the July unrest if that money was granted by the Treasury.

Later, he was told that the money was reserved for infrastructure.

Money was there, however, it was never allocated to the right beneficiaries, Cele said.

Source: News24

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