South African Constitution – Section 12 – we need more detectives


Nicholas Woode-Smith | Associate | Free Market Foundation | mail me |

South African Constitution

12. Freedom and security of the person

1. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right ­

a. not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;

b. not to be detained without trial;

c. to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources;

d. not to be tortured in any way; and

e. not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

2. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right ­

a. to make decisions concerning reproduction;

b. to security in and control over their body; and

c. not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.

After its rise to power, the African National Congress (ANC) devastated law enforcement through the enabling of corruption, pressuring many veteran cops to resign, and by absorbing detectives directly into the police hierarchy. This move destroyed detective-work in the country, and lead to many detectives resigning and seeking greener pastures.

This destruction of investigation-capabilities didn’t concern the ANC; and perhaps doesn’t even now. The ANC is notoriously obsessed with the ideologies of socialism, Marxism, and African nationalism. It believes, wholeheartedly, that crime is purely caused by socio-economic factors; poverty, racial discrimination, and ‘white monopoly capitalism.’ The ANC believed that by eliminating these factors, and ushering in a socialist society where nobody wants for anything, there would be no crime.

To the ANC, crime prevention mattered more than solving committed crimes. So, the ANC pushed resources into visible, manpower-taxing police patrols, while according to Anthea Jeffrey in her seminal book Countdown to Socialism, they “downgraded the importance of detective work.”

Detectives used to exist under a separate hierarchy, equipped with the autonomy needed to investigate and solve crimes without the interference of day-to-day policing or petty politicking. But the ANC destroyed this, putting detectives under often vindictive, underqualified, and corrupt superiors. Race quotas, denial of promotions and forced resignations just added fuel to the fire. Detectives resigned in droves, leaving law enforcement powerless to solve crimes.

The trend has continued. Between 2017 and 2023, 8,400 detectives were lost. As of September 2023, there are about 17,000 detectives in South Africa. They are responsible for investigating an estimated 27,272 murders (in the 2022/2023 financial year alone), not to mention sexual violence, robberies, organised crime, assault, corruption and a host of other crimes.

Detectives are overworked, under-resourced and unappreciated by a government that continues to neglect their incredibly important role in seeking justice for victims, punishment for perpetrators, and an important deterrent to would-be criminals.

This is unacceptable in a country with rampant, endemic crime. We need more detectives. And we need fundamental reforms in law enforcement to allow detectives to do their job.

Bring back independent detectives

Detective-work was destroyed when their hierarchies were merged with SAPS. So, reverse that error by once again placing detectives under their own hierarchy.

Detective-work is fundamentally different from visible policing. One is hypothetically preventative, while also mostly being reactive to crimes in progress, while the other is meant to see that justice is done and that perpetrators of committed crimes are found and punished.

Policing is more about manpower, patrols, coverage, reaction-times and ties to a local community. Detective-work is a science, involving highly intelligent individuals meticulously collecting evidence, using advanced technology and methods to find leads, and pursuing leads until the truth can be ascertained.

As police-work and detective-work are different, they need to be under different types of leadership. This would also allow detectives to more easily investigate corrupt policemen without risking their own jobs.

Additionally, detectives shouldn’t only be their own organisation separate from SAPS but exist under as many specialised and localised groups as possible. Decentralising policing and detectives would reduce the spread of corruption, allow detectives to focus their energies on a particular type of crime and location, and increase efficiency through specialisation.

Train more detectives

Detectives are selected from SAPS personnel who have been on the force for a minimum of two years. While many police are definitely deserving of becoming detectives – and police-work is no doubt a great entry into eventually becoming a detective – South Africa is in dire need of specialised detective training.

There needs to be an establishment of many more dedicated detective colleges, specialising in teaching criminology, forensics, psychology, and advanced techniques that go beyond the skill requirements of a normal policeman.

Detectives are their own type of law enforcement officer and require more training and education. While deserving police should become detectives, we should also investigate opening more colleges to train new generations of investigators.

Information is power

Contrary to what the ANC wants to believe, crime is always going to be a factor in any society. You can’t rely purely on prevention or reducing poverty to eliminate crime. You must equip investigators to collect evidence to solve crimes and punish the perpetrators. Providing much needed justice, and a deterrent to future criminals.

Equipping an independent detective-force will go a long way to solving our crime rate, including the destruction of organised crime syndicates, and the providing of closure to many victims’ families.

There is no solution to our crime rate without detective-work. So, it is about time the government starts taking seriously this drastic shortfall.


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