R209 million – that is what the South African Police Service has paid in civil claims in the past financial year, for wrongful arrests and a range of crimes, including rape, attempted rape, grievous bodily harm, corruption and assault committed by police officers.
The South African Police Service has suffered round after round of blows to its public image, so the news that millions of rands of public funds are required annually to pay off those whose rights are violated by the police is just another example of the multitude of problems the organisation faces. Solutions to these problems seem to remain elusive. If Andrew Faull’s assessment of why the police resort to violence against civilians is correct, the trite assessment that more oversight, increased arrests of wrongdoers in the police, and more stringent recruitment criteria will solve the problem, falls far from the mark.
In this edition of SACQ Faull reflects on his recent experiences following the daily grind of police work in the Eastern and Western Cape. His conclusion – that the police use violence in an effort to gain respect and stamp their authority in communities, and that this is a reflection of deeply entrenched notions of masculinity – implies that the solution will be complex and requires a societal change. The violence used by police in the contexts of their work is merely an extension of violence used for these same reasons in other social contexts.
The extent to which the violence experienced at all levels of society is connected was also recently demonstrated through the findings of the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention’s school violence survey. The survey showed that over the past five years there has been no change in the high levels of violence and aggression experienced by children in South African schools. It also found that corporal punishment remains the punishment of choice for many educators, despite the legal ban, reflecting how wedded we are to the notion that violence is the only way in which figures of authority – teachers, parents, police officers – can achieve ‘control’ and ‘respect’. If we understand all expressions of societal violence as reflective of this basic belief system, and agree that it needs to change, the solutions will be quite different to those we have offered so far.
Also in this edition, we introduce a new feature titled ‘Case Notes’. The first case note, contributed by Ann Skelton, considers the findings of courts in two provinces regarding the right to automatic repeal in cases involving child offenders. This feature is intended to offer readers accessible reflections on recent judgements and identify their policy relevance.
Staying with child justice, Hema Hargovan's article offers an assessment of a diversion programme offered by a non-governmental organisation and identifies the difficulties associated with assessing the impact of such programmes. Finally, Clare Ballard and Ram Subramanian look at efforts to reduce pretrial detention in South Africa and ask whether the time is right for the implementation of measures that have been shown to work. In preparing this edition of SACQ I have been assisted for the first time by a small team of sub-editors, who will be working with me and SACQ contributing authors to ensure that the articles you read here remain of a high standard. The sub-editors are volunteers who offer their time and experience to the journal, and to the range of articles submitted for publication. I look forward to working with them and welcome them to the SACQ team.
Chandré Gould (Editor)