The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has warned that South Africa’s police force is continuing to see a major decline in service numbers, with the country’s security forces not prepared for the possibility of more riots in the country.

The country’s largest trade federation said state security and law enforcement agencies do not seem to have made any progress or learned any lessons since July 2021’s riots.

“In some instances, things have deteriorated with our SAPS headcount declining from 197,000 five years ago to 172,000 today. The recruitment of 12,000 new SAPS members is welcome but remains insufficient against a backdrop of 10,000 expected retirements and resignations this year. We have continued to witness an overstretched and under-resourced SANDF.

“It is clear that this administration needs a shake-up if South Africa is to avoid another collapse of the social order.”

Cosatu cautioned that the weak and poorly equipped law enforcement agencies and a stagnant economy continue to be a recipe for another episode of violent disturbance.

“Millions of South Africans remain hungry and unemployed, and they continue to be systematically isolated from the mainstream economy. The crisis on poverty, inequality and unemployment cannot be wished away but needs to be addressed without fail.”

Decrease in detectives 

Civil society group Afriforum has also raised concerns about South Africa’s declining police force and those in charge at the top. It pointed to the fact that the SAPS  has lost more than 1,300 detectives in the last two years.

In a country where 67 people are murdered daily, it is unacceptable that these personnel have not been replaced, the group said.

“(Police minister) Bheki Cele has demonstrated multiple times that he lacks the skills and temperament to fill his critical position. Ministers unfit for their positions have failed and indulged in gross misconduct with impunity for long enough,” said Jacques Broodryk, campaign manager at AfriForum.

“How are the criminals of this country supposed to fear a Minister of Police that loses his composure so easily and screams at concerned citizens? The people and communities of South Africa deserve much, much better” Broodryk said.


Cele has indicated that his department plans to rapidly ramp up recruitment in the coming year – which will include thousands of new officers and bringing older officers back into the fold.

Answering a recent written parliamentary Q&A, Cele said the South African Police Service plans to add 12,000 new recruits in total. A total of 7,000 new recruits will be enlisted in the 2022/2023 financial year, with a further 5,000 recruits added in the 2023/2024 financial year.

“In addition to the above, 3,000 posts were advertised during the 2021/2022 financial year and the SAPS recruits will undergo training – therefore a total of 10,000 recruits will be trained in 2022,” Cele said.

The training of these recruits is expected to be completed on 15 December 2022, after which they will be deployed across the country.

“Posts for the re-enlistment of former experienced SAPS members were also advertised in the national media on 13 March 2022, with a closing date of 28 March 2022. Successful former SAPS members will be placed at specialised units and police stations.”

Cele said the SAPS is continuously ‘capacitating’ and re-skilling members to enhance their knowledge and skills, to execute functions effectively and efficiently.

“Once the new SAPS recruits have successfully completed their training., they will be placed at police stations, Public Order Policing units, family violence, child protection and sexual offences units, as well as other specialised and general detective units.”

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