DA’S Stevenson concerned at rising rate of lawsuits
OF a staggering R1.8-billion in civil claims made against the Eastern Cape police, the department forked out R73-million during the past three years, DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said yesterday.
Stevenson said the alarming figure was revealed by Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana at the Bhisho legislature in response to a question he had asked.
Stevenson, the opposition party’s MPL responsible for safety and security, said the R73-million was the result of payouts to 1 707 claimants.
Stevenson said police paid out R15-million to 506 claimants in 2011-12.
The following financial year R23-million was paid out for 538 claims.
In 2013-14 R33-million was paid out for 663 claims. Eastern Cape police spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci played the statistics down, saying not all the claims had merit.
“Some members of the public who come into conflict with the law may be of the view that their rights have been infringed and make use of their remedies to institute litigation against the [police],” she said. “This is irrespective of whether there is merit in the individuals’ claims.”
Soci said the police continuously provided internal lectures and workshops to officers so they understood their powers and obligations.
“This is also to ensure that their knowledge of the relevant legal provisions are updated, thereby also minimising the risk of unnecessary litigation.”
But Stevenson said the DA was concerned about the increase in claims. “Out of the 4 534 claims made, the majority [3 057] were for unlawful arrest and detention and 268 for assault.
“What is disturbing is the big increases in amounts that were paid out each year. In the last financial year there was an increase of 43%. The trend is alarming. It is far too high,” he said.
“We are a constitutional democracy and there should be a strong human rights culture in the SAPS. These figures tell another story.”
Stevenson said a report tabled in parliament last year painted the Eastern Cape as the province with the second-highest number of police with criminal records after Gauteng. He suggested new recruits should undergo a psychometric test to ensure they were mentally prepared for the job.
“The job of the SAPS is to protect members of the public and to uphold and enforce the rule of law.
“It is imperative that people entrusted with this duty do not act like criminals themselves and undermine our constitutional democracy.