Professionalising the Fight Against Police Corruption in South Africa

Towards a Proactive Anti-Corruption Regime


  • WIndell Nortje University of the Western Cape, South AFrica



South African Police Service, corruption, abuse of power, bribery, anti-corruption unit, professionalisation, ethics


The South African Police Service (SAPS) plays an integral role in maintaining law and order in a country as violent as South Africa. Unfortunately, some members of SAPS have also contributed to this violence physically, such as police brutality, as well as secretly, by way of corrupt practices. Police corruption in South Africa is rife. Police officers involved in large scale bribes, firearm trafficking and other crimes are common. This has inevitably led to the demise of public trust in SAPS. Several governing regimes have attempted to combat the scourge of police corruption since 1994 but have failed. The establishment of Anti-Corruption Agencies that combated police corruption effectively was abolished and replaced with less effective units. This article challenges the current regime and proposes a regime which will not only react to corruption within SAPS but also look at ways to prevent corruption by professionalising the system. This is important because distrust in the police due to corruption negatively affects its citizens on a daily basis. A professional police service requires a firm ethical foundation. Without it, corruption in SAPS will persist. The paper will therefore also look at ways to strengthen ethics within SAPS. First, the article examines conceptual aspects related to corruption and police corruption. Secondly, the causes of police corruption are analysed. It is important to know why police decide to be corrupt in order to act proactively against the problem of police corruption. Then, the former and current anti-corruption units combating police corruption are analysed to identify the strengths and the weaknesses of the fight against police corruption. Next, the paper discusses several measures which will contribute to the professionalisation of SAPS. Finally, the paper concludes by recommending various initiatives aimed at sustaining the fight against police corruption in the long term.


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