South Africa lost 20,000 police officers in the past five years – and new hires can’t keep up

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says declining budgets and a shrinking police force are two of the biggest reasons behind the country’s growing crime rate.

The country’s largest trade federation was commenting on South Africa’s latest SAPS statistics which show an increase in almost every crime category in the first three months of 2022.

“The austerity cuts that have slowed down the rate of recruitment of the police officers since 2014 and the lack of adequate funding for law enforcement agencies is the source of this deterioration in safety standards,” Cosatu said.

“Over the past five years, the South African Police Service headcount has declined from over 192,000 to 172,000. The announcement of an additional 12,000 intake this year is welcome but not enough when compared to 10,000 expected retirements from the SAPS, a growing population and rising levels of crime.

Cosatu added that there is not enough being done to ensure that police have adequate resources to stem the tide of crime in the country.

In May, police minister Bheki Cele said 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.

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.”

What they earn 

The SAPS’ latest annual report, published in August 2021, shows that employees work across a range of sectors including ‘administration’, ‘visible policing’ and ‘crime intelligence’, with salaries averaging at R206,000 for the lowest skills level (1-2).

This rises to an average salary of R1,435,000 for senior management and executive employees (levels 13-16), while the average salary across all levels is R416,000.

The below tables show the personnel costs by programme and costs by salary bands.


Read: ‘No justification’ for shocking crime stats – but there are plans to fix them: police minister

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South Africa lost 20,000 police officers in the past five years – and new hires can’t keep up