It has been a little over five years since metropolitan police departments were first established in South Africa.
Despite relatively small numbers of operational personnel, they now form a familiar part of the policing
landscape. With good reason, metro police officers do better at traffic control than crime prevention, and
their relationship with the SAPS needs attention. This article reflects on their achievements over the past years
and some of the key challenges confronting these local level police agencies.
From the heavy-handed crowd control under apartheid to the abusive actions of the Internal Stability Division
during the early 1990s, public order policing in South Africa has been steeped in controversy. However, things
changed after 1994 when this component of the police was radically transformed. With a decline in demand
for their specialised services, and a need for more resources, the units have been reorganised into Area Crime
Combating Units (ACCUs). While no doubt helping to reduce crime, it is unclear whether the SAPS still has
the capacity to manage the increasing number of volatile crowd situations.
South African sex workers, especially those working on the street, have good reason to feel afraid when they
are on the job. Not only do they have to contend with the inherent dangers of their profession, but because
sex work is a crime, they face frequent abuse and harassment from the police who are ostensibly upholding
the law. But the threat of arrest does little to stop sex workers; instead it forces them underground and into
situations that are potentially even more dangerous.
Several media and research studies have reported on police abuse and ill-treatment of undocumented
foreigners in South Africa, concluding that xenophobia is a major problem in the SAPS. But how pervasive is
xenophobia in the police? Where does it come from and what can be done about it? Based on a survey of
police officials in the Johannesburg area, this article examines the phenomenon and attempts to provide some
By focusing on petty crimes, community courts hope to encourage a 'zero tolerance' approach to criminality,
develop integrated and constructive responses to local crime problems, and alleviate case loads in magistrates'
courts. Based on an evaluation of three community courts in the Western Cape, this article argues that overall,
the courts are functioning satisfactorily. Challenges in the areas of planning, public awareness, police data
collection, and the provision of diversion and alternative sentencing options must, however, be addressed.