It was reported today that less than 3 000 police officers have been declared competent in the use of firearms since January this year. Matching this data with figures released earlier this year, this means that South Africa has approximately 24 000 police officers on the streets who have not been declared competent to use firearms.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa must take urgent steps to address the lack of training that is making police officers a potential danger to the citizens they are meant to protect.
Earlier this year, a leaked performance audit revealed that 27 000 police officers had failed their firearms proficiency test. The report today which quotes the Safety and Security Seta spokesperson, Isabel Bowden, reveals that since January, only 3 353 applications for renewal have been received and of those only 2 112 certificates have been issued so far.
Progressing at the current rate, it would thus take us eight years to ensure that the current group of 27 000 officers are declared competent to use firearms. One must ask how the SAPS will possibly cope with firearm licence renewals of about 160 000 operational SAPS members.
This information, coupled with the fact that 16 954 police officers do not have driver's licences and numerous officers fail fitness assessments, makes us question what the Minister is doing for his department.
Minister Mthethwa's spokesperson, Zweli Mnisi, says that the Minister is actively involved in ensuring police officers are competent. If that is true, then the Minister himself must be incompetent.
I will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police to ask that the Minister presents a plan at the earliest opportunity next year on how he will ensure every officer in the South African Police Service meets the basic requirements of being able to drive, shoot and run.
The Minister needs to ensure that his department gets the basics right. We need fit, trained police officers out there fighting crime. Failure to achieve this puts the lives and safety of all South Africans at risk.