Government wants to set up 6 new special police units – including hostage negotiation

The South African Police Service is considering the creation of six new specialised policing units, including moving two established units into primary functions.

Responding to a parliamentary Q&A, police minister Bheki Cele said that work studies are currently underway to determine the feasibility of the units. Some reports have already been finalised will soon be presented, he said.

“A statement (on the units) will be made once the approval for the establishment of the proposed units has been finalised,” the minister said.

The units under consideration are:

  • A motorbike capability
  • Highway patrol
  • Illicit mining capability
  • Economic Infrastructure Unit (EIU)
  • Water policing and diving services (Primary function instead of secondary function)
  • Hostage negotiation (Primary function instead of secondary function)

According to Cele, on top of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – known as the Hawks – South Africa has 16 special policing units operating on the national level, and 22 special units operating on a provincial level.

The new proposed units will operate on a provincial level, he said.

Hiring drive

Cele previously stated that his department will significantly ramp up recruitment and training in the coming months as the SAPS plans to add significant capacity.

The minister said this is provided for in the estimates of national expenditure for 2022, which will allow the police service to hire an additional 12,000 entry-level constable posts.

As many as 7,000 of these entry-level positions will be appointed in the 2022/2023 financial year, with the remaining 5,000 recruits added in the 2023/2024 financial year, he said.

The number of staff in the SAPS has declined steadily over the past decade and is expected to plateau going forward.

In its annual performance plan presented in parliament in April, the SAPS noted that in 2011/12, the department had a peak total staff complement of 199,345.

By comparison, its most up-to-date headcount stood at 182,126 at the end of the 2020/2021 financial year – an effective decrease of 8.8%.

“The Police Act workforce has also aged significantly during this period with a reduction of more than 30,000 within the age group 39 years and younger, i.e. from nearly 90,000 in 2011/12 to just more than 59,000 Police Act employees at present still in that age group,” the SAPS said.

This means that the average age of officers on the ground is notably higher compared to 10 years ago. The SAPS now projects that its staff establishment will stabilise at 178,708 in the 2022/23 financial year.

“This figure will be maintained over the medium-term as the SAPS has been allocated additional funding of R8.7 billion to accommodate the appointment of 12,000 entry-level members, of which 10,000 will replace personnel losses due to natural attrition and 2,000 will result in increases to the establishment.

“As such, the number of personnel is expected to increase by 2,000, from 176,708 in 2021/22 to 178,708 in 2022/23, which will be maintained over the medium term.”


Read: Here’s how many police officers there are in South Africa – and what they earn

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Government wants to set up 6 new special police units – including hostage negotiation